Saudi Arabia may possibly be the world’s worst nation when it comes to women’s rights.
In the Gulf kingdom, women are treated like second-class citizens and are banned from many activities that most developed nations take for granted. Women are not allowed to drive, cannot travel without a male guardian (husband, son or brother), need to be covered completely form head-to-toe when venturing out of the house and need the permission of their husband for a divorce.
In fact, earlier this month, Dina Ali, a Saudi woman who was trying to escape her country’s tyrannical rule by seeking asylum in Australia, was detained at a Philippines airport and sent back to her country. Saudi officials brutally beat up the woman, before gagging her, wrapping her in a sheet like a mummy and then sending her back to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Her fate remains unknown.
So, it seems impossible that the United Nations would let Saudi Arabia join its Commission on the Status of Women, an agency whose mission is “promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
But that is exactly what happened.
The U.N. press release revealed that the Commission on the Status of Women was elected by a secret ballot with 54 voting members.
At least 5 EU states voted FOR the Saudis.— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) April 23, 2017
The country’s 2018-22 appointment was, understandably, condemned by human rights advocates.
“Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” declared U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer on Twitter. “It’s absurd.”
Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief.https://t.co/Q0HASTQwfJ— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) April 23, 2017
“Every Saudi woman,” Neuer added, “must have a male guardian who makes all critical decisions on her behalf, controlling a woman’s life from her birth until death. Saudi Arabia also bans women from driving cars.”
“I wish I could find the words to express how I feel right know. I’m ‘Saudi’ and this feels like betrayal,” tweeted a Saudi woman pursuing a doctorate in international human rights law in Australia.
UN has just placed Saudi Arabia on the “Commission on the Status of Women." As if we needed another more confirmation the UN is a disgrace.— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) April 20, 2017
Saudi has been elected to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.— Haidar Sumeri (@IraqiSecurity) April 23, 2017
What a time to be alive. pic.twitter.com/920ZtMlLlQ
.@pradewitch Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women have the legal status of a minor. Yet they're on the UN commission for women...— حسن حفيظ (@HasHafidh) April 24, 2017
That’s not all.
Saudi Arabia already has a position on the Human Rights Council, which gives the kingdom the freedom to vote and influence various resolutions including domestic violence laws and gender-based discrimination. These resolutions affect the rights of women not just in Saudi Arabia, but worldwide.
What does this means for international women’s rights? Without a doubt, nothing positive.