Saudi trolls target TV host after mild criticism of female guardianship laws

Saudi trolls target TV host after mild criticism of female guardianship laws
In an episode of the "Dawood Show" on Monday Dawood al-Shirian praised efforts for launching Absher app but was angered to learn that elderly women required male consent to travel.
2 min read
26 February, 2019
Dawood al-Shirian praised efforts behind the Absher app [Twitter]
A Saudi TV host came into the spotlight on Monday over comments he made on air criticising the country's male guardianship laws, while applauding the kingdom's controversial women-tracking app 'Absher'.

In an episode of the "Dawood Show", Dawood al-Shirian praised efforts behind the app, which enables male users to apply for and renew travel documents as well as notifies them when female dependents obtain these documents or leave the country.

But during the show, which displayed the app's features, it transpired that elderly women without guardians are prevented from travelling without male consent, prompting anger from the host.

"The issue here that a 70-year-old woman whose husband has died is prevented from travelling without male consent. Just let the woman travel!" Shirian said, addressing an interior minister official on the show, who was unable to respond clearly.

Shirian proceeded to share the clip on Twitter, highlighting that no one is able to explain why an elderly woman would be prevented from travelling.

The move prompted backlash from conservative commentators and pro-government trolls, as the Arabic hashtag #stop_dawood_Shirian quickly gained traction on Twitter, with over 50,000 tweets, at the time of writing. Many called for his show to be banned outright for daring to question male guardianship laws.

Saudi guardianship law states that all females must have a male guardian, typically a father, brother, husband, uncle or son.

Women and girls are barred from travelling or carrying out official business without official permission from their male guardians.

The Absher app, which is available on Andriod and Apple smartphones, allows male guardians to register their female 'dependents', restrict or permit their international travel, and receive a notification whenever their 'dependents' attempt to cross the kingdom's international border.

Critics have said the app enables abuse against women and girls, by allowing men to track their movements and stop them from leaving the country.

Earlier this month, the EU expressed concern over the "government web services" and called for an end to the male guardianship system that reduced women to second-class citizens.  

US lawmakers called on Apple and Google to take down the app from their platforms.

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