First Saudi gov't school said to start sports for girls

Amal Institute in Jeddah reportedly competes in sports tournament for the first time following Shura Council ruling
First Saudi gov't school said to start sports for girls
(Photo for illustrative purposes only)
By Staff writer
Mon 19 May 2014 09:22 AM

A government school in Saudi Arabia has reportedly introduced sports for girls for the first time.

According to reports in local media, girls at the Amal Institute in Jeddah competed in a volleyball tournament last week after the school built new sports facilities, also for basketball, tennis and hockey.

In April, the Gulf kingdom's Shura Council recommended that the longstanding ban, already relaxed in private schools last year, be scrapped.

The topic of Saudi women in sport came under the spotlight at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, when Saudi Arabia bowed to international pressure and sent female athletes to compete for the first time.

The International Olympic Committee agreed to allow the two Saudi women — a judo player and a middle-distance runner — to compete with their heads and bodies covered in deference to the Islamic dress code enforced in Saudi Arabia.

The Shura Council, a religious body that recommends legislation to the government, in April approved sports lessons for girls according to Islamic principles and traditions.

Private schools have had some leniency in allowing girls to exercise since last year.

Supporters have praised the move to help reduce obesity, which is rising at a significant rate in the kingdom.

Last month, Human Rights Watch welcomed Saudi Arabia's move towards advancing the rights for women and girls by possibly introducing physical education for girls in public schools.

The Gulf kingdom's Shura Council, the kingdom’s highest consultative body, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the recommendation earlier in April.

The Ministry of Education must draft and present regulations, and the Shura Council and Cabinet must approve them before sports for girls in public schools becomes a reality, Human Rights Watch said.

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