Saudi Arabia: Women Are “Changing the Game”


(Gender-based discrimination / Tradition, Culture, Religion)

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Women in Saudi Arabia have made some progress in participating in sports for health, competition, and professional opportunities but serious barriers remain.

On the eve of the Rio Olympics, the Saudi government, including the new women’s section of the Saudi sports authority, should remove the remaining barriers to sports in schools, businesses, federations, and team sports.

Four women will represent the country in Rio, a slight improvement from the two who competed in the 2012 London Summer Olympics. But inside Saudi Arabia, widespread discrimination still hampers access to sports for Saudi women and girls, including in public education. This exists against a backdrop of pervasive discrimination that constrains women’s day-to-day lives in Saudi Arabia. Women are not allowed to travel abroad, marry, or be released from prison without a male guardian’s permission, and may be required to provide guardian consent to work or get health care. They are not allowed to drive.

“Saudi women are making tremendous strides in the world of sports – climbing the tallest mountains and swimming the lengths of rivers,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives. “They are showing their determination, talent, effort, and heart despite daunting legal, cultural, and religious hurdles. As the Rio Olympics open, Saudi Arabia needs to change the game by addressing the profound discrimination that holds back women’s and girls’ participation in sport in the kingdom.”

Read the full article at Human Rights Watch.