A recently-released report by the Insider website revealed a Saudi online system that helps male guardians to track and prevent women from travelling outside Saudi Arabia.
The application called “Absher” is apparently not new. It has been in Saudi Arabia for years now. It has come under scrutiny as more Saudi women are escaping their families and seeking asylum in Western countries.
The government-manufactured and operated application contains logs of Saudi women that enable their male guardians; fathers, husbands, brothers or any part of the family, to control their travel permissions.
It is all in Arabic by default, however, it can also be accessed in English. It contains categories of Saudi women; including “Total Dependents Inside” that refers to woman who are inside the Kingdom, or “Total Dependents Outside” referring to women outside the country who are studying or working outside.
The application that is currently being used by Saudi men to track and control women replaces a yellow paper that women previously needed with their male guardian’s signature to allow them pass through customs. Meanwhile, men now can also use Absher to specify when and where women are allowed to fly out of the country and return back
It also allows men to receive an SMS to notify them whenever a woman uses her passport at the border crossing or in the airport check-in.
The Saudi ministry of interior, that is running the application, claimed it is an attempt to create a digital services platform similar to paying fines online. In fact, Absher platform is the online platform that demonstrates the real meaning of Saudi Arabia’s oppressive male guardianship laws.
On social media, the Insider story has caught attention leading more people to jump on the story and condemn it. Some called Apple’s App Store to take the applications down as it represents a discriminatory tool which advocates the oppression of women.
The online app has been brought into focus recently as more Saudi women have been trying to flee the abuse and oppression. The latest story was Rahaf al-Qunun, who was granted asylum in Canada after almost a week of running away from her family and facing threats of being taken back to her country.
Rahaf is not the only one, reports confirmed there are around 1000 Saudi women who flee their country each year, few were lucky like Rahaf to escape and many were caught and returned back to the abuse and violence of their families.
The male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia has been a controversial one for decades now.
Recently, many campaigns were launched by Saudi women on social media to demand getting rid of the discriminatory law that requires every woman in the Kingdom to receive the approval from her male guardian to make a range of critical decisions on her behalf, including travelling outside the country, getting married, studying abroad or even to leaving prison!
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