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Robot granted Saudi citizenship has more rights than Saudi women

Creepy Sophia strikes again

Saudi Arabia has granted citizenship to a robot in a move that appears to elevate its rights above those of women within the Middle Eastern country.

The robot called Sophia was wheeled out in front of a crowd at the Future Investment Initiative summit in the capital, Riyadh. It was created by Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics.

During the display the robot was informed of the decision to grant it citizen status. "I'm very honoured and proud for this unique distinction," Sophia said. "This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognised with a citizenship."

The event was an attempt to promote Saudi Arabia as a place to develop artificial intelligence.

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But as many pointed out on Twitter, unlike Saudi women, Sophia appeared on stage alone and uncovered. She also did not appear to have a male guardian, as required by Saudi law for women in the country.

Under Saudi Arabia's discriminatory male guardianship system, every woman must have a male guardian, a husband or relative, who has the authority to make a range of critical decisions on her behalf.

Women are required to receive guardian approval to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study abroad on a government scholarship, or to get married.

However, last month Saudi Arabia said it would allow women to obtain driving licences, in what the kingdom hailed as a major step forward in the Saudi crown prince's long-term reform initiatives.

According to independent watchdog Freedom House, Saudi Arabia was ranked 10th worst country for civil liberties and political rights. ®


It's worth noting that Sophia is the same robot who told her creator that she would "destroy humans" in an interview with CNBC at SXSW last year. Her haunting grimace suggested she may have been joking, but is this truly citizenship material?

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