Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saudi Arabia and the Olympics

Some have termed Saudi Arabia's discrimination against women "gender apartheid." Human Rights Watch wants the International Olympic Committee to take action:
"As the world prepares for the 2012 Olympics, the Saudi government is systematically discriminating against women in sports and physical education, and has never sent a female athlete to the Olympics, with no penalty from the international Olympic authorities, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Human Rights Watch called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to make ending discrimination against women in sports in the kingdom a condition for Saudi Arabia’s participation in Olympic sporting events, including the 2012 London Games...

"While the IOC has criticized Saudi Arabia for failing to send women athletes to the Olympics, it has not conditioned the kingdom’s participation on ending discrimination against women in sports. In July 2011, IOC spokeswoman Sandrine Tonge said that the IOC governing body 'does not give ultimatums nor deadlines but rather believes that a lot can be achieved through dialogue.' The IOC charter, however, asserts that sport is a right for everyone and bans discrimination in practicing sports on the basis of gender. In 1999, the IOC banned Afghanistan under the Taliban from participating in the 2000 Sydney Olympics due, in part, to the Taliban’s discrimination against women in sport...

"'The IOC should live up to Olympic values and press the Saudis to start women’s sport programs as a condition for remaining within the Olympic family,' Wilcke said. 'Sports can be a great cause for good, but forcing Saudi women to watch all-male teams represent them every four years can only demoralize those aspiring to sporting glory.'"

Last fall there was talk of Saudi Arabian women competing in equestrian events, but that seems to have fizzled. The IOC needs to stand by its charter setting a standard for international norms in this field.

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