Saudi Arabia Takes Another Big Step Toward Gender Equality

It may seem like a minor change, but it’s actually a big step on Saudi Arabia’s road to gender equality. The country, known for restricting women’s rights in the name of religion, is finally allowing women to attending sporting events in stadiums.

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The move comes a month after King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued an order allowing women in the country to drive, ending a longstanding policy that epitomized gender discrimination in the Middle East for years. Now they’re allowing women to attend sporting events in stadiums for the first time, according to the Washington Post.

Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority made the announcement Sunday, tweeting that preparations will begin to “accommodate families” in three stadiums in the major cities of Riyadh, Jiddah and Dammam. Two of the stadiums, the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh and the King Abdullah Sports City in Jiddah, hold the highest seating capacity in the kingdom.

“Sports stadiums in Saudi Arabia to open their doors to welcome women in 2018,” Princess Reema Bandar bint Al-Saud, the vice president for women’s affairs of the General Sports Authority, wrote on Twitter.

The change is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “vision for 2030″ plan.

He has said that the government aims to boost female participation in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent by 2030…

In a speech last week, the crown prince said he hopes to turn his country toward a more moderate version of Islam. He described plans to build a futuristic city run solely on alternative energy. A promotional video for his proposed development shows women running in sports bras and working alongside men in co-ed offices without the hijab covering their heads.

It’s great that women will now be able to attend sporting events, but this isn’t really about stadiums or cars or any of these other specific laws in Saudi Arabia. This is part of a trend throughout the country, as well as in other parts of the Muslim world, toward something that is desperately needed: equality between men and women.

The Republic of Tunisia is another recent example. In September, the North African country announced it would reverse its sexist law forcing women to marry Muslim men.

The recent changes also symbolize the evolution of Islamic societies, which tend to be more fundamentalist in nature. They are now becoming more liberal, more accommodating, and more in line with 21st century norms.

So, before you write this off as just another right women should have already been granted (and it’s that, too), remember that this is part of something bigger. It’s something to be celebrated.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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