A human rights watchdog group has lashed out at the United Nations for appointment of Saudi Arabia as a member of a committee on gender equality, despite Riyadh’s massive discrimination against women.
“Saudi discrimination against women is gross and systematic in law and in practice,” said the executive director of the human rights group UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, in a Sunday statement.
“Why did the UN choose the world’s leading promoter of gender inequality to sit on its gender equality commission,” he said in a statement. “Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” he later tweeted.
On Wednesday, the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) elected 13 members, including Saudi Arabia, to four-year terms on the Commission on the Status of Women, which is exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Out of 144 on the Global Gender Gap Index, Saudi Arabia was ranked 141 in 2016.
In recent years, the Al Saud regime has come under intense pressure by rights groups for mistreating women.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving. The ban stems from a religious fatwa imposed by Wahhabi clerics. If women get behind the wheel in the kingdom, they may be arrested, sent to court and even flogged.
Under Saudi law, a woman must have permission from a male family member, normally the father, husband or brother — in the case of a widow, sometimes her son — to obtain a passport, marry, travel, exit prison and sometimes work or access health care.
In January, a UN Special Rapporteur on human rights, Philip Alston, slammed Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women, saying, “The driving ban should be lifted, and women should no longer need authorization from male guardians to work or travel.”