According to reports on local daily Al Watan, Saudi Arabia is to license women’s sports clubs for the first time. Last year Saudi Arabia sent women athletes to the Olympics for the first time in history after pressure from international rights groups.
Until now, women’s exercise facilities like gyms have had to be designated as “health centres” and licensed by the Health Ministry. It was reported in Al Watan last April that the government had set up a ministerial committee to allow women’s sports clubs.
On Friday the paper reported that the Interior Ministry had decided to allow women’s sports clubs after reviewing a study that showed flaws in the present system.
In August 2 Saudi women, Judo fighter Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani and the 800-metre runner Sarah Attar, became the first to compete for their country in the Olympics.
In January King Abdullah named 30 women to the Shura Council, an appointed body that debates future legislation and then gives non-binding advice to the government.
King Abdullah, is viewed as having pushed for greater women’s education and opportunities to work, even in the face of opposition from the Kingdom’s powerful conservative clerics.