Saudi closes women's gyms in licence clampdown

Saudi only permits male gyms, until now a blind-eye was turned to women's facillities.
Saudi closes women's gyms in licence clampdown
By Soren Billing
Sun 26 Apr 2009 02:42 PM

Women only gyms in Saudi Arabia are being shut down as a result of the government only licensing gyms for men.

Gyms for women in the conservative kingdom are being closed down by Saudi authorities since the agency responsible for licensing them, the General Presidency of Sport and Youth Welfare (PSYW), only permits men’s sports clubs, according to Saudi daily Arab News.

Women only gyms have become popular in cities like Jeddah and Dammam in recent years after circumventing licensing rules by calling themselves beauty salons.

Saleh bin Nasir, deputy director of PSYW, said that a request had been submitted to the authorities asking for permission to establish women’s clubs, and that his department was waiting for a response.

The Saudi government had previously chosen to turn a blind eye to unlicensed women’s gyms in order to avoid criticism from religious scholars.

One Saudi scholar recently described women who participate in sports as “shameless”.

His views were echoed by Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Al Asheikh in a television interview last year.

“Women should be housewives; there is no need for them to engage in sports. Such practices don’t serve society,” Al Asheikh told Al Eqtisadiah television.

Leena Hamamy, director of a fitness center in Riyadh, said she could not understand the need for a campaign to close women’s clubs, which help people stay healthy, while shisha cafés were permitted.

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