Saudi Ara­bia to al­low women into sports sta­di­ums in re­form push

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Regional -

SAUDI Ara­bia will al­low women into sports sta­di­ums for the first time from next year, au­thor­i­ties said Sun­day, in a land­mark move open­ing up three pre­vi­ously ma­le­only 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 re­forms shak­ing up the king­dom, in­clud­ing the his­toric de­ci­sion to al­low women to drive from next June.

“Start­ing the prepa­ra­tion of three sta­di­ums in Riyadh, Jed­dah and Dam­mam to be ready to ac­com­mo­date fam­i­lies from early 2018,” the Gen­eral Sports Author­ity said on Twit­ter. Restau­rants, cafes and video screens would be set up in­side the venues, the author­ity added.

Last month hun­dreds of women were al­lowed to en­ter a sports sta­dium in Riyadh, used mostly for football matches, in a one-off event to cel­e­brate Saudi Ara­bia’s na­tional day. Sun­day’s an­nounce­ment im­plies that women in Saudi Ara­bia will be al­lowed for the first time to at­tend sport­ing events in­side sta­di­ums along­side men.

Un­der the coun­try’s guardian­ship sys­tem, a male fam­ily mem­ber, nor­mally the fa­ther, hus­band or brother, 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 sweep­ing “Vi­sion 2030” plan for eco­nomic and so­cial re­forms as it pre­pares for a post-oil era.

Last month a royal de­cree said women would be al­lowed to drive. The king­dom is also ex­pected to lift a pub­lic ban on cin­e­mas and has en­cour­aged mixed-gen­der cel­e­bra­tions.

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