She wears clothes that are moderately suggestive. You can see the outline of her breasts. She doesn’t wear pants (she doesn’t yet have legs but her creators say they’re coming).
Her lips are coloured with lipstick. Her head is uncovered. She has no hair. She even has her own Facebook page.
If she were a woman, she would be arrested in Saudi Arabia. A place where death by stoning in public is still practiced. Where the amputation of children’s limbs is a form of corporal punishment. Where women aren’t permitted a fair trial. And where sons automatically inherit twice that of daughters.
Still, on Wednesday at a Future Investment Initiative event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabian officials granted Sophia citizenship.
“It is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognised with citizenship,” the Centre of International Communication in Saudi Arabia posted to twitter. “Please welcome the newest Saudi: Sophia.”
The “newest Saudi” Sophia speaks with men freely. In April, she appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. She cracked jokes, flirted with Fallon a little, threatened to take his job as host…
In Saudi Arabia, women are ‘owned’ by men. Fathers pass daughters onto husbands. Women aren’t permitted to speak at length with men who aren’t related. In restaurants and public places, there is usually a ‘family’ section and another area reserved just for men. Women must by law wear hijab and abayas, which are long black cloths that cover their figure. Makeup must be moderate, nothing ‘suggestive’ is allowed.
But none of these rules apply to Sophia, the only citizen of Saudi Arabia who identifies as female and is not ‘governed’ by a man.
Typically, citizenship in Saudi Arabia is only permitted if a person is born there and is Muslim. Marrying a Saudi does not automatically grant citizenship – the person must revoke their citizenship to their birthplace. Even permanent residents, who’ve worked in the country for years, are not permitted to apply for citizenship.
Sophia, however – the first robot citizen in the world – was made in America and handed Saudi Arabian citizenship just like that.
— CIC Saudi Arabia (@CICSaudi) October 25, 2017