Saudia Arabia will allow “qualified” women to participate in Olympics

The article below comes from Human Rights Watch, and is about Saudi Arabia allowing “qualified” women to compete in this year’s Olympics— something the country has never allowed before. The announcement comes weeks before the Olympics are set to begin. With Saudi Arabia allowing those women who qualify to participate in the Olympics, there are now only two countries, Brunei and Qatar, that still ban it. However, Saudi Arabia is still the only country to ban women from participating in competitive sports in general.

Saudi Arabia Allows “Qualified” Women to Compete in Olympics

June 28, 2012

Saudi Arabia has announced that it will allow women athletes to compete in the Olympics for the first time, following more than a year of Human Rights Watch reporting, campaigning, and high-level advocacy with the International Olympic Committee.

Failure to allow women to play sports violates the Olympic Charter, which prohibits gender discrimination, and would have triggered Saudi Arabia’s banning from the London Games.

The Saudi concession that “qualified” women could compete comes only weeks before the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Games.

“This is an important step forward, but it also fails to address the fundamental barriers to women playing sports in the kingdom,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives.

While calling the Saudi announcement an important advance for women, Human Rights Watch cautioned that gender discrimination in Saudi Arabia is institutional and entrenched. “Alone in the world, millions of girls are still banned from playing sports in Saudi’s schools,” Worden said. Women are also prohibited from playing team sports and denied access to sports facilities, including gyms and swimming pools.

These obstacles to sport are underpinned by the government’s so-called “guardianship” system, under which women must obtain permission from a male guardian (a father, husband, or even a son) to work, study, marry or access health care. Saudi women are banned even from driving a car.

Human Rights Watch said Saudi Arabia should demonstrate its commitment to human rights and the Olympic Charter not just by sending a team of female athletes to the London Olympics, but by adopting new policies that will create real, systemic change to benefit all Saudi women and girls.

With the Saudi Olympic reversal as momentum, Human Rights Watch will continue to push Saudi Arabia to allow women to play sports and participate in public life.



Previous articles on the ban: Saudi Arabia anncounces it will continue to ban women from competitive sports, including Olympics and Saudi Arabia continues to ban women’s sports


About Haley Behre

I graduated from Syracuse University in December 2011 with majors in newspaper journalism and women and gender studies. Using these majors, I aspire to become a journalist who writes about human rights issues. I have held internships at the Syracuse New Times, Dash Media PR Firm, Syracuse Post-Standard and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. I also had an internship at the Not For Sale Campaign Syracuse chapter, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking. I was born in Seoul, Korea on September 30, 1990 and moved to the United States before I was one year old. When I was 8, my family and I moved to Norwich, England for three years. While I was here I was immersed into a new culture and got to experience many things other children my age do not get to. Over the three years, I visited Ireland, France and the Netherlands several times, and Belgium, Wales and Sweden once. In the winter of 2010, I got an amazing opportunity to visit Kenya for a month. This was by far the single most eye-opening experience of my life thus far. The natural beauty of the landscape and its people do not compare to anything I have seen. I currently intern for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press in the hopes of getting a full-time job at a newspaper or non-profit after.
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