Saudi Arabia To Allow Women Into Sports Stadiums From 2018

Arif Naqvi CEO of Abraaj Group that manages $10 billion in assets is bullish on Saudi Arabia as the kingdom courts the business world and opens up its economy. Sarah Dea  The National

Arif Naqvi CEO of Abraaj Group that manages $10 billion in assets is bullish on Saudi Arabia as the kingdom courts the business world and opens up its economy. Sarah Dea The National

From next year, they will be allowed into three sports stadiums for the first time.

This decision comes at a time when the muslim kingdom of the Gulf has recently started an easing of restrictions imposed on women.

Women have previously been banned from all stadiums but the Saudi government said Sunday that it would begin opening up venues in Riyadh, Jeddah and the eastern city of Dammam in early 2018.

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The authorities, last month, had allowed hundreds of women to show up at a sports stadium in Riyadh for the first time to mark Saudi Arabia's national day.

This terminology is in line with common practice in other gender segregated public spaces, such as restaurants and cafes, which are usually divided into a men-only area and a "family" zone for women and mixed-sex family groups.

The GSA said the stadiums would allow whole families to attend as spectators, thereby ending a blanket ban on women at sporting events.

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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.

Right campaigners in July also welcomed an "overdue" reform by the education ministry to allow girls to take part in sports at state schools.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has promised to advance the country into a realm of "moderate Islam", but the country has been under the sway of a strict interpretation of Wahhabi Islam since at least the late 1970s. The opening of sports halls private the women had even been controversial.

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The vision of an " Arabian moderate", long considered an oxymoron, however, could trigger a backlash from conservatives, believe analysts.

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