Sports arena being opened to women and families in Saudi for the first time

RSTV Bureau
Saudi Arabia women

Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@Reuters

It’s another first for women in Saudi Arabia. After agreeing to allow its women to drive, the country will now allow women to enter three sports stadiums for the first time beginning next year.

The landmark move will open up the previously male-only venues to women and families.

The announcement was made on Sunday and is in line with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious reform drive, that is shaking up the kingdom.

“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 a royal decree said women would be allowed to drive from June, 2018. The kingdom is also expected to lift a public ban on cinemas and has encouraged mixed-gender celebrations — something unseen before.

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.

Authorities had 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.

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

In a rare public appearance last week Prince Mohammed pledged a “moderate” Saudi Arabia. He promised his kingdom will return to “what we were before — a country of moderate Islam that is tolerant of all religions and to the world”.

(With inputs from agencies)