Saudi Clerics Ban Women's Gyms

Posted on April 26, 2009

The Guardian reports that conservative Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia want to take away more right from women. They already can't drive, go outside of their home without a male relative in town, appear unveiled in front of males who are not relatives and they can't vote. So what else can't they do now? Go to one of the popular all-female gyms. Why not? Because it's "shameful" and will lead the women into abandoning their homes, husbands and children. For the gym.
The problem that has emerged in recent months is that women's gyms are unlicensed and so illegal. Female fitness fans complain of a lack of places to exercise outside the home since they cannot use men's clubs. The general presidency for sport and youth welfare is responsible for men's gyms but it has not been allowed or prepared to regulate those for women.

Businessman Bader Al-Shibani wanted to open a women's sports club along with the one he runs for men in Jeddah. "I ran into a stone wall at every turn," he said. "Every department I visited denied that they had the authority to give permission to establish a women's club. In the end, I just abandoned the project." Action has already been taken against two women's gyms, in Jeddah and in Dammam, according to al-Madinah newspaper. Clubs in Riyadh have so far been spared.

This month a group of Saudi women launched a campaign entitled Let Her Get Fat, in opposition to a decision to close down all-female wellness centres that are not under the supervision of a government hospital or clinic. Leading Saudi clerics have condemned the gyms and clubs as "shamelessness" and warned that women would be tempted to leave their homes and neglect their husbands and children.
The gyms are unlicensed because the government won't grant a license to any gym that allows women members, even if no men are allowed on the premises. This is absolutely appalling. Just when we think women can't get any more repressed, something like this comes up.