Even in the digital era, women in Saudi Arabia just can’t seem to escape the male gaze. A new app, Absher, allows men to track their women relatives. The Saudi Interior Ministry stating that the Absher app provides services for “all members of the society… including women, the elderly, and people with special needs”, The Hindu reported.

The Saudi law states that women must have consent of their husband, father or their immediate male relative to renew passports or leave the country

It says that the app, which is available on Android and Apple phones, allows users to renew passports, visas and eases a variety of other electronic services. However, the rights groups and US lawmakers have condemned tech companies for creating the app and providing it to the kingdom. They also said that the app permits abuse of women by allowing men to track their location.

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US Senator Ron Wyden has called on both Apple and Google to remove the app, arguing on Twitter that it promotes “abusive practises against women”. But Apple CEO Tim Cook isn’t aware of the app’s existence and assured that he will look into it.

The Saudi ministry called the criticism a propaganda and a “systematic campaign aimed at questioning the purpose of the services”. It added that these are “attempts to politicise” the tool. The Saudi law states that women must have consent of their husband, father or their immediate male relative to renew passports or leave the country.

The kingdom is facing severe scrutiny after the mysterious death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. It has led international rights committees to renew criticism of the kingdom’s rights record. Aside from Khashoggi’s death, Saudi Arabia also stands guilty of detaining a number of human rights and women campaigners—some of whom accused of undermining national security—with scant public information about their whereabouts or the legal status of their cases.

Picture credit- Rediff

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