Less then a week after Saudi Arabia won a spot on the United Nation’s Women’s Rights Commission, it demonstrated too clearly why the kingdom doesn’t really get the whole concept of female equality. On Wednesday Saudi Arabia rejected a proposal to establish sports colleges for women allowing them to publicly participate in sports.
A proposal to establish sports education colleges for Saudi women failed to win enough votes in the kingdom’s top advisory council, the Associated Press reports. The proposal suggested that Saudi Arabia—which still denies girls the right to participate in physical education programs—should fund the colleges where women could be trained to teach fitness and well being. The proposal was rejected.
Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative clerics believe that women’s exercise is “immodest” and reportedly say it blurs gender lines.
In the kingdom, women are still banned from any physical education, fitness activity or organized sports, according to UN Watch. Women are not allowed to participate in tournaments, state-organized sports, or even attend sporting events as spectators.
Devoid of even basic rights in education, healthcare, legal papers, or business ownership without the written permission of their male guardians, there have been only slight improvements in the realm of sports. Physical exercise is still seen as sexualized, sinful, immodest, and even devilish by some ultraconservatives.
In February, the country began granting women-only gym licenses, which was seen as a big step to more independence for women. But the main incentive was to motivate women to get fit since a lot of the female population reportedly suffers from diseases linked to limited physical exercise such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity.
Saudi Arabia also sent four female athletes to compete at the Rio Olympics in 2016 but only because the International Olympic Committee gave an ultimatum back in 2012 to include women in their Olympic team or be barred from participation altogether. Saudis handpicked several women who were allowed despite performing under Olympic-qualifying standards.
Today, women who want to study sports or physical education have to leave to study abroad. While there are some private clubs with several kinds of sports practiced, there is zero government support and an underlying fear that participating could lead to trouble.
Saudi Arabia, “the world’s most misogynistic regime,” was selected a leader of Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nation. Funny.