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Saudi opens stadiums for women to watch soccer, a first

14 January 2018, 12:34 | Myrtle Vega

Female Saudi supporters of Al Ahli queue at an entrance for families and women at the King Abdullah Sports City

Female Saudi supporters of Al Ahli queue at an entrance for families and women at the King Abdullah Sports City

For the first time in history, women in Saudi Arabia have been allowed to attend a football match in Jeddah.

A Saudi private company on Thursday opened the first auto showroom for women only just five months before a decision allowing females to drive takes effect.

The so-called "family sections" were created to keep women separated from the male-only crowds, while the stadium was also fitted with female prayer areas and restrooms. This was the first time that women have been permitted to share a stadium with male spectators.

On Thursday, Jeddah held Saudi Arabia's first auto exhibition aimed at women, a few months after Saudi Arabia announced it would grant them the right to drive.

"Family sections" are ubiquitous across the kingdom, allowing married couples, direct relatives and sometimes groups of friends to sit together, isolated from male-only tables at restaurants and in waiting areas at banks and hospitals.

Although only 20 riyals (£3.88) a ticket, the family section for Friday's match was still less than half full. "Some thought it wouldn't be very safe or organised", said Swick, who attended the game with her Saudi husband and son, and her American mother.

"I came with my father and my brother - we're fans of Al-Ahli", said university student Areej al-Ghamdi, adding that she had always cheered the club from home."This is the first time we'll be cheering for real, not just in front of the television", she told the Agence France-Presse.

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While negotiating the overseas employment of the female workers, the government should be strict in ensuring that the women workers would receive fair wages and humane treatment and that their employers would be brought to book if they violated their employee's rights.

The Islamic kingdom has announced a series of reforms initiated by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman since previous year.

Still in place, however, are guardianship laws that prevent women from travelling overseas, obtaining a passport or marrying without a male relative's consent.

It follows a series of reforms meant to modernise the country.

The Saudi Ministry of Information confirmed last week that authorities had scheduled three professional league games in three different stadiums where women could observe live from stadiums in January.

Both teams sold female shirts at discount prices to attract women supporters, Saudi media reported.

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