This year’s Olympics marks the first time all competing countries have sent female athletes, which is a huge step for gender equality.
However, this is still not without some issues, most notably concerning Saudi Arabia and sharia law.
Both women sent with the Saudi team were only allowed to travel with their guardian’s permission (ie, their husband, or father if they are unmarried).
They have apparently been told not to mix with other men, and also will compete in clothing that adheres to sharia law.
This last point seems particularly unfair, since it’s expected they will compete wearing long trousers, a long sleeve top, and some form of hat or headdress to cover their head.
In potentially sweltering, hot summer weather.
Yeah, great idea.
Surprisingly, there’s a reason athletes wear generally as little clothing as possible: so they don’t get too hot, which would hinder their performance.
It seems almost silly to force a woman competing to not wear appropriate sporting clothing even for a few minutes; other athletes make compromises. Eg, Ramadan falls during the Olympics, however athletes who would usually take part in it have mostly been told they can skip Ramadan until their events are over.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a HUGE step for equality, and there will probably be further steps forward in the coming years and games (eg people will probably expect countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar to send more than a few female athletes), but there’s still a long way to go for everyone to be truly equal.