To the disbelief to many, the UN has elected Saudi Arabia, perhaps the world’s most misogynist country, in its 13 member panel for promoting women’s rights, recording the plight of women all over the world and for shaping equality of gender and women’s empowerment, for its 4-year tenure.
Saudi Arabia was elected last week by ECOSOC, UN’s Economic and Social council’s 54 country team in an unusual secret ballot. Ordinarily, the council’s rubber stamp nominations are held behind shut doors by the regional groups however this time the U.S coerced an election at China’s disappointment.
The international human rights body revealed the news in its most recent press release where 9 other ECOSOC decisions were shared with the public and the media.
The kingdom is now amongst the 45 countries that will make up the commission which was created to the lead the cause of women rights and gender. The news which came out today has sparked outrage within the human rights community and the watchdog agency UN watch called it as “electing an arsonist to be the town’s fire chief”.
Hillel Nuer, director of UN watch tweeted an image which said that at least 15 major democratic member states of ECOSOC voted in favor of Saudi Arabia out of which 5 should be European.
The country was also re-elected to the UN’s Human Rights Council where it holds the right to vote on, effect and supervise infrastructures, resolutions, and ventures affecting the rights of all people worldwide including women.
Some of these ventures are; eradication of discrimination against women, equal citizenship rights for women in law and practice, forwarding efforts to kill all forms of violence against women and allowing equal participation for women in public and political affairs. Unfortunately, none of these has the Kingdom established in its own country.
The country is infamous for its countless violations of basic human rights and UN resolutions and possibly has the worst track record when it comes to women. Saudi Arabia exercises strict gender segregation between all unrelated men and women.
The country has an atrocious stance on women’s freedom of movement and personal liberty through its primitive guardianship law that gives a male guardian like a father, brother, and husband the right to make all critical decisions of a woman on her behalf or against her wishes, controlling her existence from birth to death.
The country is also an example unto itself because it’s the only country on the map that bans women from driving.
The former administrator of UN development program and the Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark warmly welcomed the result citing that things are changing in the Kingdom and that it’s important to support those who are involved in that.
Yet just a month ago, Saudi Arabia launched its first ever council meeting for girls where the publicity photos showed 13 men and no women. The organizers reported that women were invited to the event but they had to be seated separately from men.
The Global Gender Gap report of 2015 released by The World Economic Forum ranked Saudi Arabia at 134 out of the 145 countries for Gender Equality.
The only noble news was that the country was not elected by enthusiastic approval, but instead received the lowest votes than any other country, 47 out of the 54 votes cast, although amongst the countries getting the vote there was no competition as the amount of seats was the same as number of countries which were to receive the vote.