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There’s a Saudi App that Controls Women

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Google and Apple are under fire for permitting the release of an application that “allows men in Saudi Arabia to track and control the movement of women” (The Washington Post). Under Saudi guardianship laws, women are legally bound – required to request permission from the opposite sex to move freely throughout the country. A father, husband, brother or son must be consulted before a woman attempts to travel, undergo a medical procedure or any other major decision deemed too big for women to decide on their own. Guardianship laws enforce social hierarchy based on gender inequality, and there’s a new app that pushes this agenda forward. 

Absher = Yes Sir. 

Absher, the app sparking global debate, was released in 2015. Launched by the Saudi Arabia government it encourages men to monitor women under their guardianship. With a click of a button men can ban women from flights, and track their location using a national identity card and/or passport. There’s an option to turn on notifications too; sending a text message to a guardian when a woman travels through an airport. Ironically, Absher roughly translates to “yes sir” – a direct correlation to the patriarchal dominance enforced within Saudi Arabia.

Google + Apple.

Critics believe Google and Apple are fueling gender inequality by providing access to Absher. Google Play store and Apple’s app store offer the controversial technology – a plausible connection to the oppression of Saudi women. Saudi Interior Ministry, a government entity, reports that the app has more than 11 million active users. Google Play reports the app has been installed more than one million times. Apple has yet to disclose its numbers. 

Backlash.

It’s been four years since the app dropped, existing under the “radar” given its cultural acceptance in a patriarchal land. But an attempt to remove Absher from digital platforms emerged when Senator Ron Wyden addressed a letter to the two tech giants: “It is hardly news that the Saudi monarchy seeks to restrict and repress Saudi women, but American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government’s patriarchy”. The Democrat goes toe to toe with the chief executive officers of Apple and Google, requesting the two tech kingdoms prevent their companies from “being used by the Saudi government to enable the abhorrent surveillance and control of women”.

Annsleigh Denise is a graduate of Spelman College, earning a Bachelor's Degree in English and a Minor in Multi-Media and Professional Writing. She is a multifaceted creative, focused on the inner-workings of print, publication, and Broadcast Journalism. Possessing notable editorial skills, Annsleigh aspires to utilize her professional experience to impact the world of media.

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