Saudis to al­low women into sports sta­di­ums

The Nation - - WORLD -

Saudi Ara­bia will al­low women into three sports sta­di­ums for the first time from next year, au­thor­i­ties said, in a land­mark move that would open up the pre­vi­ously male-only venues to fam­i­lies.

The king­dom, which has some of the world’s tight­est re­stric­tions on women, has long barred women from sports are­nas by strict rules on seg­re­ga­tion of the sexes in pub­lic.

The an­nounce­ment is in line with pow­er­ful Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Salman’s am­bi­tious re­form drive shak­ing up the ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive king­dom, in­clud­ing the de­ci­sion to al­low women to drive from next June.

“Start­ing the prepa­ra­tion of three sta­di­ums in Riyadh, Jed­dah and Dam­man to be ready to ac­com­mo­date fam­i­lies from early 2018,” the Gen­eral Sports Au­thor­ity said on Twit­ter.

Last month au­thor­i­ties al­lowed hun­dreds of women to throng a sports sta­dium in Riyadh, used mostly for foot­ball matches, for the first time to mark Saudi Ara­bia’s na­tional day.

Un­der the coun­try’s guardian­ship sys­tem, a male fam­ily mem­ber must grant per­mis­sion for a woman’s study, travel and other ac­tiv­i­ties.

But the king­dom ap­pears to be re­lax­ing some norms as part of its “Vi­sion 2030” plan for eco­nomic and so­cial re­forms, which aims to boost fe­male em­ploy­ment.

In July, rights cam­paign­ers wel­comed an “over­due” re­form by the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry to al­low girls to take part in sports at state schools.

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