Saudi Arabia has said that they allow their daughters who attend public schools to attend physical education.
A happy news long awaited by all women in this Arab kingdom. They have long demanded greater sports rights and access. The decision to allow children to play sports in public schools is very important in Saudi Arabia, because women who exercise are always considered taboo. Some royal ultra conservative scholars avoid the concept of the practice of women as “disrespectful” and say it obscures the gender line.
The Ministry of Education said on Tuesday it will introduce physical education classes “gradually” and “in accordance with Sharia law.”
At least one Saudi activist brings this to Twitter and establishes a status by questioning whether this implies that girls will be asked to seek permission from their male guardian, just like his father before they can play sports. It is also unclear whether this will be an extracurricular or mandatory class.
In the United Kingdom it was only four years ago officially approved the sport for girls in private schools. Women first participate in the Saudi Arabian Olympic team during London 2012 games.
Although there is an addition to Saudi women, strict restrictions remain. Women are forbidden to drive and have to ask a guardian’s permission to travel abroad or obtain a passport. Men’s guardianship rules that restrict the giving of men, usually father or husband, are deeply affected by the life of a woman in Saudi Arabia. Women in Saudi Arabia generally have to wear loose robes known as “abaya” in public, and most also cover their hair and face with black veil.
The decision to grant women access to sports games comes after years of campaigning by women’s rights activists, who have led calls to end male guardianship rules and lift women’s driving ban.
Access to sport is largely a luxury for women who can afford it and their families allow it. A number of private sports clubs have emerged over the years, allowing some women to join in women’s basketball leagues. In recent years Saudi Arabia has approved several licenses for women-only gyms, but membership fees are out of the reach of many people.
A newly educated female university in the capital, Riyadh, has a large gym, an open-air football field, running tracks and an indoor swimming pool. Despite such facilities, the country’s main advisory body, the Shura Council, rejected a proposal earlier this year to establish a sports education college that will train women to teach fitness and well-being, such as physical education courses at schools.
Saudi Arabia implements strict gender segregation rules that often require women to sit in the “family only” section of restaurants and cafes or are banned entirely from places where separate seats are not available. Boys and girls are separated at schools and universities to prevent unrelated men and women from mixing.
The Ministry of Education said the decision to introduce sports for girls is in line with Vision 2030’s plan, the country, a broad government plan to revolutionize society and the economy. It was pioneered by the royal heir to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The plan specifically calls for encouraging the participation of all citizens in sport and athletic activities. It says 13 percent of Saudi population practice once a week. The government is targeting to reach 40 percent and increase life expectancy from 74 years to 80 years.
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