Women's rights

Saudi Arabia opens sports stadiums for women for the first time on Friday

They will be segregated by barriers from the male crowd.

For the first time in Saudi Arabia’s history, women will be allowed to enter a sports stadium on Friday to watch a football match, AP reported. However, they will be segregated by barriers from the male crowd, and allowed to sit in the “family section”.

The kingdom’s General Sports Authority had made the announcement in October 2017. Women spectators will enter the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh to watch the football match between Al-Ahli and Al-Batin as part of the Saudi Professional League. The stadiums in Jeddah and Dammam will follow suit on Saturday and on January 18.

The stadiums have been equipped with female prayer rooms, restrooms and separate entrances and parking lots for women spectators, according to AP. The women are expected to wear loose-fitting, full-length robes as well as headscarf if they are Muslim, BBC reported.

Saudi Arabia is infamous for its rules against women. The World Economic Forum in 2016 had ranked the kingdom 141st out of 144 on gender parity, The Guardian reported.

In October 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had vowed to focus on eradicating extremism within his kingdom and a return to “moderate Islam”. He said the country was “not like this in the past”. “We will eradicate the remnants of extremism very soon,” he had said. “We represent the moderate teachings and principles of Islam.”

Ever since, he has been easing restrictions on Saudi women. In September 2017, it was announced that women will be allowed to drive from June 2018 for the first time in the kingdom. In December, the kingdom had said that the ban on movie theatres will be lifted in 2018.

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