It’s no joke.
Saudi Arabia has been elected to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
Again, this is not a joke.
Agencies around the world are criticizing the UN’s decision, for obvious reasons. Saudi Arabia, a country where women are subjects of male family members; where women must adhere to strict dress codes and are prohibited from driving; where women cannot interact with men they are not related to for fear of being beaten, imprisoned in their own home, and sometimes even killed, is now being celebrated as one of the 44 countries elected to the Commission on the Status of Women last week. To be clear, this commission has the following goals: “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.”
According to UN Watch’s executive director, Hillel Neuer, “Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief.”
Saudi Arabia has been adamantly trying to change the world’s perception of their gendered laws. In March, the country held its first women’s empowerment conference. It was led by Princess Lamia bint Majed al Saud, who insists that women in her country are misunderstood and that Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in respect to breaking down gender barriers. A Girls Council, which is meant to promote the welfare of girls and women in Saudi Arabia” was established in March as well. It was being led by 13 men. The Princess is the chair of the council, but could not appear at the launch due to gender laws. She and other women were video-conferenced in.
While it may be true that some (and I stress some) progress has been made, it doesn’t make up for the violence Saudi women face on a daily basis. It doesn’t make up for the fact that Saudi Arabia is ranked 134 out of 145 countries for gender parity in 2015. And it absolutely doesn’t make up for the lack of rights and freedoms these women enjoy (or rather don’t).
And yet, Saudi Arabia is now representing the rights and empowerment of women worldwide. Is anyone else having a problem following this decision?
I’m not sure what the UN was thinking, but this isn’t the first time the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women has screwed up. Last year, they tried to name a fictional character as their ambassador. Because that’s all women need — to aspire to be something that isn’t real and to follow the example of a misogynist state.