United Nations Elects Saudi Arabia to Women’s Rights Commission

Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Muhammad bin Salman / AP
• April 24, 2017 10:30 am


Saudi Arabia was recently elected to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, provoking backlash from human rights organizations.

The Gulf state became the 45th country to sit on the UN panel tasked with promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women across the globe. UN Watch, a nongovernmental watchdog that monitors the United Nations, called the election "absurd."

"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," Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said in a statement released Saturday. "Saudi Arabia also bans women from driving cars."

"Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief," Neuer continued.

The election took place through a secret ballot during the UN's Economic and Social Council, the Hill reported. Neuer said at least five members of the European Union voted for the Saudis to serve four years on the commission.

Saudi Arabia also sits on the UN Human Rights Council. The conservative Islamist kingdom bars women from using public swimming pools, obtaining a driver's license, and interacting with men they aren't related to.

Human Rights Watch assessed in its 2017 World Report that Saudi authorities still discriminate against women despite pledges of reform.

Saudi Arabia launched its first girls' council in March, but photographs from the event depicted 13 men sitting onstage without a single woman. Women were reportedly forced to sit in a separate room, contributing to discussions through a live video feed.

Published under: Saudi Arabia, United Nations, Women