Saudi Arabia has been elected a member of the Women’s Rights Commission dedicated to the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality at the UN Human Rights Council for 2018-2022 term. The almost unbelievable news astonished some media outlets and was condemned by rights groups.
The news of electing the Saudi Kingdom as a member that enjoys the right to vote and supervise many mechanisms, decisions and initiatives that influence women’s rights all over the world was mockingly received! Saudi Arabia was elected in a top-secret voting last week at the United Nations by the 54 countries of the Economic and Social Council, with 45 approving votes. The result revealed that European countries are amazed by the Saudi experience in treating women inside the kingdom!
In Saudi Arabia, women driving cars is “illegal”, a self-evident right all over the world. Hence, the Saudi woman is denied this right. It seems that the latest voting at the Human Rights Council proved that the international community has been convinced with the Saudi Mufti who said the decision to ban women from driving cars aims at “protecting the society from evil,” signaling a promising future for all women who, until the moment, enjoy the right to drive a car!
The must-not-do list not only comprises driving, the kingdom also bans a woman from working or getting married without the consent of a “male guardian”, who would sometimes be her son. She is also banned from having a bank account or pursuing any financial transaction without the presence of this “guardian”. She might even be punished if she underwent any medical procedure without the “guardian’s” presence.
The list further includes travelling. The Saudi woman also needs the “guardian’s” approval, a father, brother, husband or even cousin to travel. Saudi female prisoners could not be dismissed from prison without the “guardian’s” approval. The issue is also applied to university female students in case they decided to leave during the university time. It is worth mentioning that the Saudi Kingdom launched in 2007 a girls’ council without any single girl participating in it!
And while electing the kingdom a member of the international women’s commission is being cheered, some Saudis of both genders are still demanding, via non-stopping online campaigns, to cancel the guardianship system applied on women and allow them to drive.
Women’s position with respect to Saudi system was uncovered by the world index report on gender gap, in which Saudi Arabia ranks 141st out of 144 countries on gender equality. As for job opportunities, education and political involvement, Saudi Arabia was the only country to record zero on the level of political empowerment in 2008!
Today, according to the United Nations, Saudi Arabia, among 45 countries, will play a key role in boosting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives across the world, as well as forming the international standards on gender equality and women empowerment!
Egyptian rights activist Jamal Eid was surprised by such election, writing on his Twitter account: “The United Nations allow Saudi Arabia to lead the Women’s Rights Commission. Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow women to drive a car! It is not a movie, it is a reality.” In another tweet he said: “Money overcame education.”
Elsewhere in Sweden, the secret voting in which Saudi Arabia was elected was heavily criticized. The head of Swedish Liberal Party Jan Bjorklund asked his country’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom to explain how Sweden participated in the voting. Additionally, Sofia Arkelsten, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee representing the Conservative Party, will hand the government a written compliant demanding explanation of what happened. Arkelsten said criticizing: “This stresses that the speech and the policies do not match. The government calls itself feminist, but this is not reflected on the ground… Even if the government hadn’t voted for Saudi Arabia, it should have been open to what it believes in, before all, to its openness on how to deal with equality.”
According to Hillel Neuer, the Executive Director of United Nations Watch, no less than five European countries were in the group that voted for Saudi Arabia. Neuer said: “Allowing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like mandating someone obsessed with burning fires to head a firefighting management, it is absurd.”
Neuer further considered that “it is ridiculous to elect the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights,” adding that “every woman in Saudi Arabia is obliged that one of her relative male guardians has to make all decisions on her behalf, since she is born until she dies.”
“Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive cars,” he added.
For its part, Germany’s Bild, the popular and widespread newspaper, reported that human rights organizations were astonished when they knew that Saudi Arabia has been elected to lead the Women’s Rights Commission at the United Nations. The paper cited some of the organizations as wondering “how would a country, which breaches women’s rights, be elected in an international body that defends those rights.”
Journalist Jaafar Abdul Karim from the German Deutsche Welle Channel asked in a tweet: “How would you explain electing #Saudi_Arabia member of the UN commission tasked with gender equality while it is in a low level with respect to the gender gap index?”
Relatively, all replies were mocking. One of these tweets was: “There is no explanation but that they purchased it with money.” Another activist on Twitter said: “One sentence: interests + money + giant arms deals.”
“Saudi chairs the “women’s” committee in the United Nations… Rice is doing its job,” another Twitter user wrote, in reference to the aids Saudi Arabia is offering for some countries.
A Saudi user further replied: “Kidnapping Dina al-Ali, jailing Alaa al-Anzi and Mariam al-Otaibi are samples of women’s rights reflections in Saudi Arabia!”
Translated by website team
Source: Al-Manar Website