In another baby step toward more independence for women, Saudi Arabia wants to open women-only gyms in every neighborhood.
The government will begin granting licenses for women-only gyms this month. Previously, women’s gyms unofficially operated under salon and spa licenses.
But there’s a caveat: The purpose of the gyms will be to motivate women to get fit. The kingdom won’t grant licenses for competitive sports, like soccer, volleyball, basketball or tennis.
Princess Rima bint Bandar, vice president for women’s affairs at the General Authority of Sports, told local daily Okaz that Saudi Arabia will begin granting licenses for women’s gyms by the end of February.
Saudi Arabia practices a very conservative version of Islam known as Wahhabism, which imposes severe limitations on women. Physical education programs don’t exist in the kingdom’s state-run girls schools, as many conservative clerics in Saudi Arabia believe allowing women to engage in sports would be sinful.
According to the CDC, obesity is higher among women than men in the country.