30 Oct 2017/Monday
In a first, women from Saudi Arabia would be able to attend sports events in stadiums from next year as part of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s major drive to break free from the shackles of harsh laws.BBC reported that families will be able to enter the stadiums in three major cities – Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.The fact that women in Saudi Arabia have been facing strict gender discrimination for a long period is not secret. This move, however, gives an impression that the laws will be relaxed soon. The reforms are in line with a wide-ranging plan announced by 32-year-old Prince Mohammed to bring social and economic change known as Vision 2030. Last month, a royal decree said that women would be allowed to drive for the first time from next June. Concerts are once again being held and cinemas are expected to return soon.Last week, the Prince said that the return of a “moderate Islam” was key to his plans to modernise the country.
A woman’s right to attend sports event or drive may seem trivial to the rest of the world, but in the wider social-cum-political sphere, these measures elevate their position in a Muslim society; simply by eroding the regressive traditional social structure where women are constantly facing the ire of conservative clerics. This is seen as a positive development for Muslim women all over because what happens in Saudi Arabia will have a major echo effect in the Middle East and other Muslim countries. These baby steps towards a women friendly, progressive open society have already started echoing in Indonesia (largest Muslim populace). The challenge here could be of the acceptance of the label of “moderate” which feeds into the perception and could be used again for propaganda by those who find empowerment of women a threat to their own existence.