“Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief. It’s absurd,” Hillel Neuer, the UN Watch chief, said.
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. Saudi Arabia also bans women from driving cars,” Neuer said.
Saudi Arabia was elected by a secret ballot last week by the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), having 54 nations as members.
Saudi Arabia along with Iraq, South Korea and Turkmenistan has been elected for a four-year term, from 2018 to 2022, among the Asia-Pacific States.
Twitter users, including Saudi Arabian women, were quick to respond to the news.
The CSW is aimed at “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 its website.
Saudi Arabia’s bid to be elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women was made in September 2016. At the time, the country referred to its record on women’s rights protection, which goes “in accordance with Sharia, which guarantees fair gender equality.”
Under Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system, adult women need permission from a male guardian – usually from a husband, father, brother, or son – to travel, marry or exit prison. They may be asked to provide their guardian’s consent to work or access healthcare. Authorities have long been promising to abolish this rule. But it remains intact.