Saudi Arabia is set to impose new controls over the travel of women, Director General of Passports Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Al Yahya said at a press conference Sunday morning for the launch of a campaign, "Your Passport, Your Identity" (Jawazak Hawiyatak).
According to Yahya, Saudi authorities are currently reviewing the procedures for granting women travel permits, a process that involves several government bodies. The government says that the new procedures are aimed at being more "modern" and simpler but many critics believe that this is semantics.
The announcement has divided Saudis, some of whom have taken to social media to criticize, and at times, satirize the impending regulations. Others have voiced their unequivocal support for the proposed amendments. More than 1,500 tweets carried the hashtag #ضوابط_سفر_المرأة_السعودية (travel controls on Saudi women) in less than 24 hours.
One user sarcastically proposes that new regulations should stipulate that a police officer travels with every Saudi woman, who should have an electronic chip that keeps track of her location implanted in her feet. He also proposes that the chip be connected to an electric detonator that automatically strikes her if she comes back to the hotel after 6 pm.:
Another user suggests that only a woman who is afraid that her “debaucheries” would be exposed would stand against the new travel controls.
Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Naif said that a study was in its final stages to extend the period of validity of passports to 10 years for those over 20 years of age.
Meanwhile, Yahya said that the fingerprints of nearly 15 million female and male expatriates under the age of 15 had been registered. He added that the Passports Department was conducting a study that is in its initial stages on issuing a plastic identity card along with the passport.