Saudi Arabia To Build Women-Only Industrial City: Reports (UPDATE)

Saudia Arabia Building Women-Only City (UPDATED)

UPDATE on 8/15/2012 at 3:20 pm ET: Al Arabiya English reported on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia is not building a women-only industrial city.

Contrary to reports by the Guardian, ABC News, and the Russian news agency RT, among others, Al Arabiya English writes that the new municipality will be open to both men and women.

According to the news agency, It appears that the confusion arose after the title of the press release by MODON, the Saudi Industrial Property Authority, was misinterpreted.

Though the title read "'MODON' begins Planning and Development for the First Industrial City being readied for Women in the Kingdom," the press release later clarifies that the city will provide employment opportunities "for both men and women."

“It's a city like any other city, where men and women work. But special sections and production halls will be reserved for women within the factories,” the authority told Al Arabiya English on Tuesday.

Read the original report below:

In a bid to reconcile strict gender-segregation laws with a desire to increase employment opportunities for women, Saudi Arabia is planning to construct a new industrial "city" exclusively for female workers, Russian news agency RT reports.

According to Asian News International (ANI), the municipality, which will be built in the Eastern Province city of Hofuf, is the "first of several" women-only cities planned for the conservative kingdom.

Women in Saudi Arabia require a male guardian's consent for a host of activities including marriage, divorce or travel. The Guardian notes that segregated schools, universities and offices are already common in the country.

According to some estimates, only about 15 percent of the current Saudi workforce is female, despite the fact that nearly 60 percent of the country's university students are women. Al Arabiya reports that about 78 percent of female university graduates in the country are unemployed.

It is hoped, therefore, that these new women-only cities will allow more women to work and achieve greater financial independence, while gender segregation is maintained, the Guardian notes.

The Saudi Industrial Property Authority (MODON), responsible for the municipality's development, said in statement that the site will be designed "for women workers in environment and working conditions consistent with the privacy of women according to Islamic guidelines and regulations."

The development is expected to attract 500 million riyals (about $133 million) in investments and create nearly 5,000 jobs, RT notes. The women-only municipality is currently being designed and construction is slated to begin next year.

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