An app has been launched in Saudi Arabia that can be used by men to control women’s movements and stop them from travelling. A leading human rights organisation has warned that the controversial app enables domestic violence and abusive labour conditions.
The app named Absher is owned and operated by the kingdom’s interior ministry and is available in the Saudi version of Google and Apple online stores.
The app has been downloaded more than one million times so far. It gives men the power to grant and rescind travel permission for women and to set up SMS alerts for when they use their passports.
According to the Independent, Human Rights Watch has called for Google and Apple to strongly urge the Saudi government to end the male guardianship system. It argued that companies should always assess apps to determine whether they infringe human rights – saying there should be extra scrutiny for apps which are developed or sponsored by governments.
Reacting strongly over the app launch, Rothna Begum, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “The mobile app Absher is a modern tool for an outdated and repressive system of control over women. Saudi Arabia should end its humiliating and discriminatory requirement for women to have male guardian permission to travel abroad.”
14 members of the US Congress have accused Apple and Google of enabling gender discrimination – describing both companies as “accomplices in the oppression of Saudi Arabian women”.