Saudi Arabia will allow women to attend sports events in three stadiums from 2018, a first in the ultraconservative kingdom, said Sunday the authorities.
“We’ve started preparation of three stadiums in Ryad, Jeddah (West) and Dammam (East) to accommodate families from early 2018,” said the General Authority of Sport on Twitter.
This decision came as the Gulf Kingdom recently began easing restrictions on women.
In September, King Salman had allowed Saudi women to drive from June 2018, a landmark decision in the last country in the world that forbid women to drive.
A few days earlier, hundreds of Saudi women had taken their seats for the first time in a Ryad stadium on the occasion of the national holiday, which included concerts and fireworks.
Until then, women were not admitted to the stadiums under the rule of gender separation in public spaces.
In Saudi Arabia, women have to be under the tutelage of a man in their family – usually the father, husband or brother – to study or travel.
As part of an ambitious plan for economic and social reforms by 2030 to limit its dependence on oil, Ryad seeks to ease some of the restrictions on women and cautiously tries to promote different forms of entertainment despite the opposition of ultraconservatives, in a country where half of the population is under 25 years old.
In July, human rights activists welcomed a decision of the Ministry of Education allowing girls to play sports in public schools.
Saudi women are not allowed to play sports in public. The opening of private gyms for women had sparked controversy.