Saudi Arabia’s General Sport authority has confirmed that women will be able to attend events at three sports stadiums in the Arab nation for the first time.
From the start of 2018, women and families will be allowed to enter the arenas in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.
The move represents a huge step for Saudi Arabia, which has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women, and comes after the country also recently opted to a lift a ban on women driving, with this decision to come into effect from June next year.
“Starting the preparation of three stadiums in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam to be ready to accommodate families from early 2018,” the General Sports Authority said in a Twitter post over the weekend, adding that restaurants and cafes will be set up in the venues, while video screens will also be introduced.
Last month, hundreds of women were permitted to enter a sports stadium in Riyadh for a special, one-off event to celebrate Saudi Arabia’s national day, but, according to The Guardian newspaper, the announcement suggests women will now also be able to attend sports events alongside men.
Under the current guardianship system in Saudi Arabia, the male family member, who is usually the father husband, or brother, has to give their permission for a woman to study, travel and take part in other activities.
However, the country’s ‘Vision 2030’ plan includes a series of reforms for a post-oil era, including a focus on greater gender equality. Last month’s lifting of the ban on women driving is one example of this and the country could also soon allow women to visit the cinema, as well as introduce mixed-gender celebrations.