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Saudi Women to Own Businesses Without Male Consent Following a Royal Decree Allowing Women to Drive

Saudi Women to Own Businesses Without Male Consent Following a Royal Decree Allowing Women to Drive

Saudi women arrive to attend Janadriyah Culture Festival on the outskirts of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 8, 2016. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Women in Saudi Arabia can now open their own businesses without the consent of a husband or male relative, announced the Saudi government on Thursday.

“Women can now launch their own businesses and benefit from (governmental) e-services without having to prove consent from a guardian,” announced the spokesman of  Saudi Arabia’s ministry of commerce and investment on twitter, followed by a hashtag #NoNeed.

A new system that carries out all start-up procedures electronically, with no special permissions required, has been made available to Saudi Women on Sunday, as opposed to getting a guardian’s approval and visiting a notary to document the founding of a company, which women had to do in the past.

The guardianship system in Saudi Arabia presents many challenges for women. To do any government paperwork, travel or enroll in classes, women are required to present proof of permission from a male guardian – normally the husband, father or brother. The kingdom ranked 136 out of 142 countries in the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index.

The announcement comes as a part of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s strategic 2030 plan, which aims to modernize the kingdom and shift from the economy’s dependence on oil.

Women’s participation in the Saudi economy has seen a sharp rise over the previous four years where women accounted for 30 percent of the private sector workforce – a rise of 130 percent, the country’s Ministry of Labour and Social Development announced in July 2017 according to the Telegraph.

The prince had issued a series of reforms on women rights, including a historic decree that will allow Saudi women to drive starting June this year, ending Saudi Arabia’s status as the only country that doesn’t allow women to drive and for the first time, Saudi women were allowed to attend a football match last month, reported Deutsche Welle.

These reforms mark the end of longstanding repressing policies against women in the kingdom. Rights groups and women rights advocates have been fighting for these rights in Saudi Arabia. They have been subject to arrests or going to jail for defying the ban.

In 2014, Activist Loujain al-Hathloul was arrested when she tried to drive into Saudi Arabia from the neighboring United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is not illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia; however, driving licenses are given to men allowing them to move freely.

Saudi Arabia is a conservative Islamic kingdom; it enforces a state policy of gender segregation between men and women who are not related.

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