The New York Times and the Lansing State Journal (Michigan) reports on female athletes in Saudi Arabia and the challenges they face. Thus far, Saudi Arabia has never sent a woman to the Olympic games, but that may change as the group Human Rights Watch and others insist that “the country is violating the International Olympic Committee charter’s pledge of equality.”
Human Rights Watch called on the IOC to require that Saudi Arabia’s participation in the London Olympics be contingent upon the Arab country allowing all girls and women to play competitive sports.
The first women’s soccer club appeared in Jeddah in 2006 and since then numerous others have appeared. Players wear full-cover garments and a headscarf. Though there are no laws banning female participation in sports, female sports teams are practically illegal, a
stigma … rooted in conservative traditions and religious views that hold giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins.
Saudi women bear the brunt of their nation’s deeply conservative values, often finding themselves the target of the unwanted attention of the kingdom’s religious police, who enforce a rigid interpretation of Islamic Shariah law on the streets and public places like shopping malls and university campuses.