Saudi Ara­bia to al­low women into sta­di­ums

The Mercury - - NEWS -

RIYADH: Saudi Ara­bia will al­low women to at­tend sports events in sta­di­ums for the first time from next year, a part of Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man’s ma­jor drive to mod­ernise Saudi so­ci­ety and boost the econ­omy, the me­dia re­ported.

Fam­i­lies will be able to en­ter the sta­di­ums in three ma­jor cities – Riyadh, Jed­dah and Dam­mam, the BBC re­ports.

It is another move to­wards giv­ing more free­dom to Saudi women, who face strict gen­der seg­re­ga­tion rules, and it fol­lows the his­toric lift­ing of a driv­ing ban.

Saudi Ara­bia’s sports author­ity said that prepa­ra­tions would start in the three sta­di­ums so they can be “ready to ac­com­mo­date fam­i­lies from early 2018”.

Restau­rants, cafés and mon­i­tor screens would be set up in­side the sta­di­ums as part of the changes, it added.

Up un­til now, the venues have been men-only ar­eas, the BBC re­ported.

The re­forms are in line with a wide-rang­ing plan an­nounced by 32-year-old Prince Mo­hammed, to bring so­cial and eco­nomic change, known as Vi­sion 2030.

Last month, a royal de­cree said that women would be al­lowed to drive for the first time from next June.

Con­certs are once again be­ing held and cin­e­mas are ex­pected to re­turn soon.

Last week, the prince said that the re­turn of a “mod­er­ate Is­lam” was key to his plans to mod­ernise the coun­try.

De­spite the re­cent an­nounce­ments, women still face se­vere re­stric­tions in the coun­try, which en­forces a strict form of Sunni Is­lam known as Wah­habism.

Women have to ad­here to strict dress codes and must not as­so­ciate with un­re­lated men. If they want to travel, work or ac­cess health care, they must be ac­com­pa­nied by, or re­ceive writ­ten per­mis­sion from, a male guardian. – IANS­cury TheMer­curySA Mer­cpic TheMer­curySA

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