From 2018, Saudi women will be allowed into three sports stadiums across the country, in Riyadh, Jeddah and Damman, according to a statement issued by the Saudi Arabia General Sport Authority today.
Women's sections allocated
Special sections will be prepared for women to attend sports events. It still remains unclear where women will sit in relation to men and if the decision will apply for single women or only for women with families.
Reforms to Women’s civil rights in Saudi Arabia
Last month, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed a royal decree to allow Saudi women to drive cars. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world which bans female driving, and it will come to an end in June, 2018.
Economic and social reforms led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salam are aiming to open the sheltered lifestyles that limit the role of women in the Arab country. Saudi Arabia adheres to the Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam, which bans, among several other things, gender mixing.
Recent reforms have also been working on areas that were once exclusive domain of the clergy, such as education and law courts. In fact, things have been vastly changing in Saudi Arabia since 2013, when the late King Abdullah appointed 30 women to the Shura Council, his advisory body. Also, in 2015, women were allowed to vote in local elections, as well as to ran as candidates in the municipal elections.
Despite these reforms, there’s still much to be done, as women in the Arab country still require permission from male guardians in order to travel, obtain passports, sign contracts, get married or divorced, etc.
“Would you marry a girl who enters stadiums?”
Social aspects of the reforms have been severely criticized by Saudis on social media. Yesterday, the hashtag “Would you agree to marry a girl who enters stadiums?” circulated across social networking media in Saudi Arabia. However, criticism is very unlikely to stop Saudi leaders from cleaving to a more tolerant interpretation of Islam.