The city, which will be built in the Eastern Province city of Hofuf, is being billed as a way for women to achieve a greater degree of financial independence while obeying the strict gender segregation dictated by the kingdom's Wahhabi Muslim rulers and enforced by the dreaded mutaween
that construction on the new city, backed by $133 million in investment, is scheduled to begin in 2013. The city will create around 5,000 industrial jobs in textiles, pharmaceuticals, and food processing.
"I'm sure women can demonstrate their efficiency in many aspects and clarify the industries that best suit their interests, their nature and their ability," Saleh al-Rasheed, deputy director of the Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon) told al-Eqtisadiah
In Saudi Arabia, women
are subject to a strictly enforced gender apartheid. They aren't allowed to vote or drive. They cannot be treated in hospitals or travel without written permission from their husbands or male relatives. One woman who was kidnapped and raped by seven men was sentenced to 90 lashes of the whip for being in a vehicle with an unrelated male. When she went to the media with her story, her sentence was increased to 200 lashes.
In 2002, 15 girls needlessly died when the mutaween locked them inside their burning school and stopped firefighters from saving them because they weren't 'properly' dressed in black robes and headscarves.
Progress, when it does come, is extremely slow and measured. Last year, King Abdullah announced that women will be permitted to vote and run
in the 2015 elections.
Since earlier this year, Saudi women have been allowed to work in cosmetics and lingerie shops
, ending the embarrassing practice of having to buy underwear from men.
And Saudi women have just recently been granted the right to compete in the London Olympics, where Sarah Attar
, clad in head-to-toe clothing, finished last in the 800 meter run.
Despite the strict restraints placed on women by Shari'a law, females still comprise an estimated 15 percent of Saudi Arabia's workforce.