Contrary to their usual misogynist policies, Saudi authorities recently allowed girls to take physical education classes at public schools.
“The public schools, like many institutions, are segregated by gender, and only boys have been allowed to play sports. But girls will now be allowed to take part in their own sports and exercise programs,” NPR reported on Tuesday.
The recommendation for PE classes for girls was made after 30 women were appointed to the Shura Council, a government advisory board selected by the king, for the first time in the country’s history.
"It is a huge dramatic change. And it's beautiful. It's just beautiful to watch the change in Saudi," said Nouf al-Musehel, a personal trainer at Glowfit – the first licensed women-only gym in Saudi Arabia.
However, the kingdom’s hard-liners, as per usual, are not happy with the development since they believe this could “Westernize” young women.
In fact, Saudi religious conservatives oppose sports for women to the extent that they denounced female athletes as “prostitutes” when they went to London to participate in the 2012 Olympic Games.
Also, in January, the country proposed hosting Olympics without women. "Our society can be very conservative," stated Prince Fahad bin Jalawi al-Saud, a consultant to the Saudi Olympic Committee. "It has a hard time accepting that women can compete in sports."
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Women in Saudi Arabia are subjected to a number of (incredibly meaningless) restrictions. They are not allowed to drive cars or go to libraries and restaurants alone. Letting girls attend gym classes means Saudi authorities finally have taken a groundbreaking step in the right direction.