01/09/2018, 09.41
SAUDI ARABIA
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Soccer stadiums to open to women in historic first

Stadiums will open their doors to women in the capital on 12 January, for a match between Al-Ahli and Al-Batin. Following Riyadh, on  January 13 in Jeddah and January 18 in Dammam. A massive presence of women is expected at the events. Saudi Princess: work is underway to welcome entire families. Despite the timid reforms, the gender gap remains wide.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - For the first time in the history of the Sunni ultraconservative kingdom, on January 12 women will be able to cross the stadium gates to watch football matches,  Riyadh authorities announced in a statement released by the Ministry of Information, which adds that "the first match open to women will be Al-Ahli against Al-Batin".

The Saudi authorities also point out that women, together with their families, will also be able to watch a second match live the next day and a third match on 18 January.

Among the first Saudi female personality to comment on the decision is Princess Reema Bandar Bint Al Saud, responsible for women of the National Sports Authority. On her twitter profile she expressed her satisfaction, underlining that "the sports facilities in Saudi Arabia will open their doors in 2018 to welcome women". Preparations are under way, she adds, to ensure that the stadiums are able to accommodate entire families.

According to the preliminary information, there will a massive presence of members of the fair sex at the games, just to exploit this new opportunity of greater freedom. The first game will be played in the capital, Riyadh, the second one in Jeddah on the Red Sea and the third in the eastern town of Dammam.

In Saudi Arabia, women are relegated to the margins of society and only in recent years have they acquired active and passive voting rights in municipal elections; a first turning point followed by a broader "modernization" plan promoted by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the context of the "Vision 2030" program.

On 23 September, for the first time, the capital’s stadium was also open to women for the national day celebrations. A few days later came the abolition of the driving ban. Previously, the appointment of the first woman to the stock exchange.

However, there are still severe limitations to female freedoms: Saudis must cover their hair and body in public, and they cannot travel or receive medical treatment without the permission of a male guardian (usually a father, husband or a son).

International rankings confirm that the gap between the two sexes is still wide: Saudi Arabia was ranked 141th out of 144 nations for gender equality in the 2016 Global Gender Gap report, compiled by the experts of the World Economic Forum.

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