Saudi Arabia, which bases its legal system strictly upon Sharia, frequently encounters criticism for its discrimination against women: they are not allowed to appear in public without their heads covered, they must have a male “guardian’s” permission to venture outside the home, and most notoriously, are not allowed to drive. (That last provision is not based explicitly upon a Sharia provision, but upon a general concern to prevent “corruption,” as one Saudi Islamic scholar detailed: “taking off hijab, loss of modesty, leaving the house too much, streets becoming overcrowded, going against and defying her husband, and depriving some of the youth from driving.”) The Washington Post reported in 2015 that “because of these factors, international bodies consistently rank Saudi Arabia low on matters of gender equality. In 2014, the World Economics Forum ranked it 130 out of 142 countries in its annual report on gender equality.”
“No Joke: U.N. Elects Saudi Arabia to Women’s Rights Commission, For 2018-2022 Term,” UN Watch, April 22, 2017:
The Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch condemned the U.N.’s election of Saudi Arabia, “the world’s most misogynistic regime,” to a 2018-2022 term on its Commission on the Status of Women, the U.N. agency “exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
“Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. “It’s absurd.”
“Every Saudi woman,” said Neuer, “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 self-described Saudi woman pursuing a doctorate in international human rights law in Australia.
Yet the fundamentalist monarchy is now one of 45 countries that, according to the U.N., will play an instrumental role in “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.”
Saudi Arabia was elected by a secret ballot last week of the U.N.’s 54-nation Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Usually ECOSOC rubber-stamps nominations arranged behind closed doors by regional groups, however this time the U.S. forced an election, to China’s chagrin….