The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on February 15, 2018 announced a major policy change by allowing women to open their own businesses without the need of showing consent from a husband or male relative.
The announcement was made by the country’s Ministry of Commerce and investment, which stated on its website that women can now launch their own businesses and benefit from governmental e-services without having to prove consent from a guardian.
• The move marks a major step away from the strict guardianship system that has ruled the country for decades.
• Under Saudi Arabia's guardianship system, women are required to present proof of permission from a male guardian, a husband, father or brother, to do any government paperwork, travel or enrol in classes.
• It is also a significant move on the part of the Saudi government to create a gender-neutral society.
• The development is also in line with Saudi Arabia’s effort to expand its fast-growing private sector.
• The oil-rich nation, which has been long dependent on crude oil production for economic revenue, is pushing to expand its private sector, including an expansion of female employment under its new reform plan for a post-oil era.
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• Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor’s office announced earlier this month that it would begin recruiting women investigators for the first time.
• The nation has also opened 140 positions for women at airports and border crossings, which drew over 107,000 female applicants- again a historic first for the nation.
• Saudi King Salman in September 2017, issued a decree that allowed women to drive cars, bringing an end to the decades-old ban on female drivers.
• In October 2017, the nation’s sports authority Chairman Turki Al-Asheikh announced that the Saudi women will now be able to attend sports events in stadiums starting from 2018.
• In December 2017, the Gulf kingdom announced the passing of the resolution that lifted the decades-old ban on providing licenses to commercial movie theatres.
• The Arab nation has been a witness to a series of new progressive reforms ever since Mohammed Bin Salman was appointed as the Crown Prince on 21 June 2017.
• The 32-year-old prince pledged a ‘moderate and open’ Saudi Arabia in October 2017, breaking with ultra-conservative clerics in favour of an image catering to foreign investors and Saudi youth.
• The Prince is widely seen as the chief architect behind Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ reform programme, which seeks to elevate the percentage of women in the workforce from 22 % to nearly one-third.
• The oil-rich kingdom is also undergoing an economic reform to reduce its dependency on oil and to project the country as a more liberal and modern economy, which is also tourist friendly.
Who: Saudi Arabia