Iran and Saudi Arabia Want Input Into UN Women’s Issues

Posted on November 10, 2010

The confrontation of Muslim and other culture over women’s issues is at hand.  Perhaps its a good thing to allow Iran and Saudi Arabia to join a forum on women’s rights and let the world determine if their way, their views are in keeping with international consensus.  More engagement in non-military settings cannot hurt and may actually help.  Here is the full BBC report:

9 November 2010 Last updated at 07:22 ET 

Iran and Saudi Arabia bid for global gender policy role

By Barbara Plett BBC UN correspondent

Demonstrators holds a picture of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani a 43-year-old mother of two, who was sentenced to death in Iran, in Paris
Ms Ashtiani’s case has sparked an international outcry

Iran and Saudi Arabia may get seats on the board of a new UN super-agency to promote women’s rights, prompting outrage from human rights and women’s activists.

“We think it sends a horrible signal to women around the world who are looking with hope to the agency,” said Philippe Bolopian of Human Rights Watch. “Given the abysmal record the two countries have on women’s rights, their candidacy will be seen as a provocation by women around the world.”

The agency is known as UN Women. After four years of delays and difficult negotiations, it was approved by the General Assembly in July and is meant to begin work in January.

It brings together four existing UN bodies into a single high-powered entity. Its aim is to increase the focus on and funding for women’s issues and, through its head, Chile’s former president, Michelle Bachelet, raise their profile within the United Nations.

So the vote for the 41 member executive board, set for 10 November, is a key step.

Discrimination in law Saudi Arabia is running uncontested for one of two slots allocated to emerging donor nations. Iran’s name has been put forward by the Asian group as part of a 10-nation slate, which is facing unexpected competition from a candidate that entered the race last week.

Activists acknowledge that other countries on the list also have poor track records on human rights, but say these two in particular systematically discriminate against women through their legal systems.

In Saudi Arabia women are forbidden to drive, and cannot take significant decisions without the permission of a male relative.

Michelle Bachelet Ban Ki-moon has said Ms Bachelet would bring global leadership to the job

And Iran drew international condemnation recently, when it was reported that a woman had been sentenced to death by stoning after being convicted of adultery and complicity in her husband’s murder. The sentence has reportedly been changed to hanging, but she is now the focus of an international campaign to save her from execution.

It is not clear what impact a country’s human rights record will have on the board, or exactly what influence the board itself will have.

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