Saudi Arabia is known for the extreme inequality of its men and women, but I’d be willing to bet that few of us can really imagine the implications of its laws. The very idea of having to obtain written consent from a male guardian to work, study, marry, travel and receive certain health care seems absurd to us, free as we are here in the U.S.
Try to imagine this one: in Saudi Arabia, women are prevented from playing sports.
In a recent report compiled by Human Rights Watch, journalists reveal that Saudi government does not support sports infrastructure for women, including girls’ physical education at school, and recently has gone so far as to ban private sports clubs. What’s more, the National Olympic Committee has no programs for women athletes and has never allowed feminine participation in past Olympic Games.
What’s wrong with sports for women? Many conservative Saudis believe that sports lead to female immorality. (One religious scholar called sports the “steps of the devil.”) According to the report, opponents to sports for women and girls argue that “once women start to exercise, they will shed modest clothing, spend ‘unnecessary’ time out of the house, and have increased possibilities for mingling with men.”
Does it look like the women in these pictures are putting their morals in danger? To us, it looks like they’re just having a good time. When will the world demand better for Saudi women? Probably when more of us begin to understand the sacrifices they must live with every day.