As reported by the Independent, the panel, called the Commission on the Status of Women, focuses on “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 according to Hillel Neuer, director of U.N. Watch, this is a highly hypocritical move. “Every Saudi woman must have a male guardian who makes all critical decisions on her behalf, controlling a woman’s life from her birth until death,” he said.
Even the United States government, which considers Saudi Arabia a close ally, acknowledges the kingdom’s atrocious treatment of women. Though in 2015 the State Department noted in a report that the kingdom had recently allowed women to vote and run as candidates, it also said the country was riddled with “pervasive gender discrimination and lack of equal rights that affected all aspects of women’s lives.”
According to a 2017 report from Human Rights Watch:
“Saudi Arabia’s discriminatory male guardianship system remains intact despite government pledges to abolish it. Under this system, adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian—usually a husband, father, brother, or son—to travel, marry, or exit prison. They may be required to provide guardian consent in order to work or access healthcare.”
“Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” Neuer said. “It’s absurd.“
According to Neuer, the regime was elected to the commission after at least five E.U. member countries voted in favor of their membership in a secret vote. To some, Saudi Arabia’s presence on the commission is intended to encourage progress, however minor it may be.
“It’s important to support those in the country who are working for change for women. Things are changing, but slowly,” said former administrator of the U.N. Development Programme and prime minister of New Zealand Helen Clark. One example of this ‘slow change’ is the country’s decision to allow women to vote and run for office while imposing gender segregation. CBS News reported at the time:
“In line with Saudi Arabia’s strict gender segregation rules, men and women are casting ballots at separate polling stations. Female candidates could also not directly address male voters, and had to either present their platforms from behind a partition, relying on projectors and microphones, or through male supporters and relatives presenting for them.”
Because of this record, the kingdom experienced a similar backlash when it was elected to the U.N.’s human rights commission in 2015. The controversy was further exacerbated when it was revealed that the country had made a backroom deal with the United Kingdom to ensure it would garner enough votes to join the commission.
The nation’s hypocrisy abounds, especially considering it is widely accepted to have contributed to the Wahhabist ideology of ISIS. Revelations in Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails also implied the country, along with Qatar — another U.S. ally — had been funding the terror group.
As Donald Trump continues to strengthen ties with the Saudis, approving a massive weapons deal and ramping up the United States support for the Saudi-led coalition’s decimation of Yemen and its civilian population, the West’s narratives of its humanitarianism are proving as flimsy as it’s so-called women’s right commission.
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