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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

'Sport or no sport - let girls choose': UAE residents react strongly to FNC member's anti-rugby comments

'My favourite part was how the female council members shut down the negativity real fast,' says National reader Mariana De Carli

Rugby has been popular in private schools for many years but is now being offered to government schools in a drive to get Emiratis involved. Satish Kumar for The National
Rugby has been popular in private schools for many years but is now being offered to government schools in a drive to get Emiratis involved. Satish Kumar for The National

Residents across the emirates have expressed anger at comments made in a parliamentary debate that suggested girls should be taught cooking instead of sports such as rugby.

Emiratis and expatriates opposed the suggestion by Salem Al Shehhi, who represents Ras Al Khaimah, in the Federal National Council that cooking classes were important to "be perfect housewives".

Rugby is part of the physical education curriculum for boys and girls and will soon be introduced in government schools, having been popular in private schools for many years.

The debate came 10 days before the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, in which women's rugby is a major fixture.

"We are sending girls and boys to space and he has an issue with girls playing rugby. He’s embarrassing us all and especially his community members," said Emirati Kawthar bin Sulayem, writing on The National's Facebook page.

The issue raised by Mr Al Shehhi was debated back and forth in the parliamentary chamber in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, as other members raised concerns about levels of obesity among young pupils.

His comments were opposed by the leader of the house, Speaker Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, who said there must be "equal opportunities for boys and girls".

Reader Mariana De Carli said: "My favourite part was how the female council members shut down the negativity real fast, much respect to the confident way Emirati women carry themselves in such situations."

And Louise Cairns said: "I taught rugby at Latifa girls school last week and they loved it."

The UAE Rugby Federation made an agreement with the UAE Ministry of Education to introduce the sport in the Emirati community.

In early January, the Ministry of Education published a rugby workbook and trained more than 400 teachers in a one-day training programme.

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Read more:

Rugby too 'rough' and girls should be studying cooking instead, says UAE council member

Rugby added to UAE's government school curriculum