04.01.137:42 AM ET

Saudi Arabia to Allow Women’s Sports

A year after the country first sent women to the Olympics.

Saudi Arabia will allow women’s sports clubs for the first time, according to a report in the daily newspaper al-Watan. It’s an about-face for the country that as recently as last year only sent women to the Olympics under pressure from the international community. Until now, women’s gyms and other exercise facilities had to be issued a license by the Health Ministry and must be designated as “health clubs.” Backward attitudes toward women still persist in the country: state-run girls’ schools do not offer exercise classes, and in 2009, a member of the country’s highest council of clerics said girls should not play sports because it could cause them to “lose their virginity” by tearing their hymens.