Saudi government app controls women’s travel
The Saudi government app Absher is mostly a way for people to pay traffic fines and complete other administrative tasks electronically. But one feature isn’t sitting well with civil-rights advocates: the ability for men to grant or deny a woman permission to travel.
Regardless of their age, women in Saudi Arabia must have the consent of a male relative to obtain a passport, travel or marry. In the past, a travel permit was a paper document issued by the Interior Ministry and signed by a male relative. The Absher app replaces the need for a paper document.
The app is merely implementing existing laws, and removing it would not change or remove the guardianship rules in place. Nonetheless, the feature has sparked calls for leading tech companies to block access through their app stores.
“The ingenuity of American technology companies should not be perverted to violate the human rights of Saudi women,” U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, wrote in a letter to Apple and Google.