Women in Saudi Arabia attend first soccer game under new law

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For the first time in history, women in Saudi Arabia have been allowed to attend a football match in Jeddah. The game marked the first time women were allowed to attend a major sporting event in the kingdom.

In a historic decision late past year, King Salman gave Saudi women the right to drive, abolishing an nearly three-decade ban based on religious reasons. However, they were forced to sit in a "family section" that separated them from the male fans.

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The stadium in the capital, Riyadh, will open to women on Saturday, followed by the western city of Dammam on Thursday. Local media said women would also have their own designated smoking areas. Most restaurants and cafes have two sections, one for just men and one for families, which are for women and their husbands and families. On Friday, Al-Ahli trounced Al-Batin 5-0 in the Premier League match, according to the Saudi Gazette. "I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change", she said.

Some people used the hashtag online to write that women should stay at home to focus on children and preserving their faith, and not at a stadium packed with males.

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This set-up of the harsh gender isolation was declared in October 2017, as a part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's pushy reforms to revise Saudi society and make better the economy. Still in place, however, are guardianship laws that prevent women from traveling overseas, obtaining a passport or marrying without a male relative's consent.

The prince will inherit a country in which more than half the population is under the age of 25 and yearning for progressive change, which will soon include allowing women into movie theaters and encouraging them to work in the Saudi labor market.

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The country's large, new stadiums were built with hundreds of millions of dollars when oil prices were almost double what they are now.

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