A woman speaks on the phone as men ride a motorcycle on a cloudy day in Riyadh, Nov. 17, 2013.
A woman speaks on the phone as men ride a motorcycle on a cloudy day in Riyadh, Nov. 17, 2013. Photo by Reuters
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In a victory for Saudi women's rights, the kingdom decided to suspend a program that sent a text message to male guardians of female relatives traveling abroad to notify them of the women's whereabouts.

The program "has been suspended due to some observations," Ahmad al-Laheedan, a passports department spokesman, was quoted by Arab News as saying.

"In the past, the system included all the names that were registered," Al-Laheedan was quoted as saying. "However, in the next phase, it will be optional. The amendments seek to enhance the system to make it better and fulfill all its objectives."

In other words, men would receive a text message regarding female relatives only if they requested the service.

Women lauded the decision, but at least one condemned its introduction in the first place. "The notification process should have never been introduced in the first place because it is humiliating for women," Sabria Jawhar, a Saudi columnist and university professor, told Arab News.

"We are responsible adults but are treated as immature or less responsible," she said.

Saudi women's male guardians have been notified by text message of their travel since November 2012 – even in cases where the men and women were traveling together, according to news reports.

Airplanes and airports are not the only places where Saudi women have endured restrictions: They are also not issued drivers' licenses and those who have attempted to get behind the wheel have been arrested and punished.

In October, Saudi authorities arrested 14 women for driving in the conservative kingdom as part of the Women2Drive campaign, a protest effort. A YouTube video called "No Woman, No Drive," which satirized the kingdom's unofficial ban on women driving, was released to coincide with the demonstration and went viral, garnering more than 11 million views to date.