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Saudi Arabia to Allow Women into Sports Stadiums

Moriah Chang, Staff Writer

Saudi Arabia, a kingdom located in southwest Asia, is beginning to ease limitations on letting women spectate in sports stadiums. For the first time in history, Saudi women were allowed to enter King Fahd Stadium where they took part in a celebration honoring the kingdom’s 87th anniversary. They were seated in a specific section allotted for families. Though welcomed by many, the move drew backlash from conservatives holding on to the country’s strict gender segregation regulations. This change provides women with more freedom proceeding Saudi Arabia’s historic decree in September allowing them to drive.

Starting in early 2018, Saudi women will be permitted into three arenas throughout major cities. Previously male-only venues such as the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh and the Prince Mohammed Bin Damman Stadium will commence preparations to accommodate families. However, specific seating placements have not been arranged at the moment as Saudi men and women are traditionally divided in locations in which they are both allowed together.

Saudi Arabia has several stadiums varying in size, but the government has chosen the greatest and most important. These stadiums belong to the six teams of the top division in the Saudi Professional League, with two of the three stadiums claiming the highest seating capacity within the kingdom.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a conservative kingdom that adheres to some of the strictest regulations of Sunni Islam in the world. Under this guardianship system, women are not allowed to marry, travel, divorce, or apply for a job without the approval of their male guardians. Women are not allowed to freely associate themselves with members of the opposite sex, and are required to wear a full-length abaya when seen in public. However, some of this is beginning to change. The move to open stadiums to women is the latest of the 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s revolutionary reforms, as pronounced in his “vision for 2030” plan. This plan toward the country’s economic reinvention rests on youth empowerment, social organization, and women’s empowerment. Overall, Saudi Arabia wants to promote the participation of women as spectators in the Saudi labor market as well as in other aspects of life.

At a recent investment conference in Riyadh, the prince pledged that the kingdom would eliminate extremist ideologies, and instead pursue a more moderate Islam. His goal is to lead  lives where religion and traditions translate into tolerance, so that all Saudis can coexist with the world and become part of its development.

Photos courtesy of CNN.COM

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Saudi Arabia to Allow Women into Sports Stadiums