A football match scheduled for this Friday in Saudi Arabia will mark the first time women in the Gulf kingdom have been allowed to venture to a sporting event.
“The first match that women will be allowed to watch will be Al-Ahli versus Al-Batin on Friday January 12,” the ministry of information said in a statement on Monday. It added women would also be able to attend a second match on the following day and a third one on January 18.
The presence of women marks a departure from previous sports events in the conservative theocracy where they are effectively barred by strict rules on public segregation of the sexes.
Saudi Arabia has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women and until last October remained the only country where they were not allowed to drive, despite ambitious government reforms aimed at boosting female employment.
As Breitbart Jerusalem has reported, under the country’s guardianship system, a male family member — normally the father, husband or brother — must grant permission for a woman’s study, travel and other activities.
The driving ban is due to be lifted in June, although conservative critics in the kingdom have warned that it will have consequences. Critics said Saudi Arabia can expect “more accidents” once women are allowed behind the wheel.
The easing of social controls comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman looks to repackage the oil-rich nation as more moderate and welcoming, AFP reports.
The powerful crown princes’ Vision 2030 programme for a post-oil era stems partly from an economic motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the kingdom reels from an energy slump.
Saudis splurge billions of dollars annually on entertainment in the neighbouring tourist hubs of Bahrain and Dubai.
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