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Dublin: 10 °C Friday 24 October, 2014

Saudi Arabia plans ‘women-only’ city

The female industrial city would allow more women into the workplace while maintaining gender segregation in the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom.

Image: Hassan Ammar/AP/Press Association Images

SAUDI ARABIA IS to construct a ‘women-only’ city with a view to giving female citizens greater freedom to work while maintaining gender segregation.

The city dedicated to “female entrepreneurs”, one of several planned, is to be built in the Eastern Province of Hofuf. The Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon), which is developing the project, says it hopes for the city to open next year.

Plans for our other similar cities have also been submitted.

The sexes are mostly segregated in Saudi Arabi, where strict tribal customs and Wahabi sharia law are in place. While women are not forbidden to work, they only make up about 15 per cent of the workforce. There are some mixed-gender workplaces but they are scarce.

Gender segregation in the Gulf kingdom has received much criticism internationally; women are not permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia and must be escorted by a male chaperone when leaving the home.

However, female employment and conditions appear to be something of a hot topic. Recently, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labour warned employers that it was illegal to discriminate against married or pregnant women, after a growing number of vacancy specified that female candidates be single, reports Arabian Business.

“Some private companies are stipulating conditions such as a woman shall be recruited only if she is single or not pregnant if married,” said ministry spokesman Hatab Al-Anazi. “[That] is against the regulations approved by the ministry.”

Last month, a poll revealed that 65 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s working women wanted greater financial independence in their careers – with those aged 25 and under arguing they wanted to make use of their high educational qualifications.

In a carefully worded statement, developer Mondon suggested the city, Al-Asha,could provide job opportunities for both women and men, but added that it would be distinguished from other cities by “allocating sections equipped for women workers in environment and working conditions consistent with the privacy of women according to Islamic guidelines and regulations.”

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