JEDDAH (TIP): Saudi Arabia is considering ending its controversial ban on sports in girls’ state schools, after its consultative council recommended the ban be lifted over vociferous opposition from traditionalists. Following a heated debate on Tuesday, the Shura Council recommended that the longstanding ban, already relaxed in private schools in May last year, be ended altogether, state media reported.
The appointed body, whose 150 members are overwhelmingly male, can only pass on its recommendation to the education ministry and has no powers to impose it. All education in Saudi Arabia is strictly single-sex, but sports in girls schools remains a sensitive issue in the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom where women have to cover from head to toe when in public. Opponents argued that girls’ state schools lacked sports facilities and rejected supporters’ claims that sports provision would help combat rising childhood obesity, an aide to the Shura Council chairman said.