The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has decided to grant citizenship to a human-like robot. The decision has not gone well among the critics of the state, who pointed out that the machine has more rights than a woman and migrant workers.
The robot, called Sophia, was the world’s first to be recognised as a citizen of a country, according to the Saudi authorities.
Sophie was granted Saudi Arabian nationality at the Future Investment Initiative, a business conference in Riyadh this week, at which the country unveiled plans to build a $500 billion mega-city, reported The Times.
The robot which looks like Audrey Hepburn has been designed by a Hong Kong based company Hanson Robotics.
The machine was interviewed on stage, dressed in a suit, without the headscarf which is mandatory for women in the Kingdom.
As soon as the news spread on social media, many pointed out that the robot has already secured more rights than a woman in the country.
Moud al-Johani, a US-based Saudi feminist, wrote on Twitter: “I’m wondering if robot Sophia can leave Saudi Arabia without her guardian consent! Since she’s officially Saudi.”
“Sophia has no guardian, she doesn’t wear an abaya and she is not covered up — what’s the meaning of this?” commented another.
Others pointed to the fact that migrant workers, many of whom spend their lives working in the oil-rich kingdom, had fewer rights that the machine. They are bound by the often abused “kafala” system, which means employees have to secure written consent to change employers or leave the country. Securing Saudi citizenship is notoriously difficult and automatic citizenship is given only to those with a Saudi mother.
“This robot has gotten Saudi citizenship before kafala workers who have been living in the country their entire lives,” the journalist Murtaza Hussain wrote.
“Can’t believe a robot is getting the passport before me, a half Saudi who has lived here practically my whole life,” added Jouman, another Twitter user.
Saudi Arabia had faced criticism from rights groups, particularly over its treatment of women and migrant workers. However, in the past two months the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has rolled out a series of reforms empowering women.