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Saudis Release App to Control Women’s Travel

Saudis Release App to Control Women’s Travel
Scott Dylan

A new app is making headlines and receiving criticism for some of its features. The Saudi government recently released an app called Absher. One of the main functions of the app makes it easier for people to pay traffic fines, which sounds convenient. However, the app also allows men to take care of various administrative tasks using their smartphones, including the ability to approve or deny a woman’s travel request.

Since it’s in accordance with the Saudi government, it’s all legal.

Women in Saudi Arabia actually need the consent of a male relative before they can obtain passports or travel out of the country. This rule is in place regardless of a woman’s age. The process of granting approval, until now, has been a somewhat tedious task. A male relative needs to sign a paper document supplied by the Interior Ministry, but now Absher serves as a replacement for the paper document. The truth is that Absher isn’t introducing anything new in regards to Saudi Arabia’s laws. It is merely a tech tool that can be used to implement laws that are already in place.

Critics of the app say that the feature is oppressive.

Several tech companies have actually decided to block access to the Absher app in their digital stores. Google has stated that it does not plan to remove Absher from its app store. Apple says that it is currently investigating whether or not Absher violates any of its policies. The app is still available on Google Play and iTunes, as of March 25. Here are the key points to know regarding how the app works:

  • Absher includes a setting that allows Saudi men to grant or deny travel access for their wives and daughters.
  • The app also allows men to approve or deny travel access for minor sons.
  • The app allows immigration officials at airports to see if a woman has the approval to travel by scanning her passport.
  • Text messages can reportedly be sent via the app when a woman or minor enters or exits a country.

What do the citizens of Saudi Arabia think?

Many Saudi citizens are in favor of the app. They see the app as an asset that helps to reduce hassles and paperwork. The Saudi Interior Ministry has defended the app by saying that it provides a direct tool for Saudis to use to access government services and comply with guardianship laws digitally.

[Image Source: iStock]

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1 Comment

  1. TheRealBabushka

    March 29, 2019 at 1:44 am

    I’m surprised they’re not calling the app it eChattel.

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