U.N. Dishonors Women
Another day for disappointment.


Anne Bayefsky

Muslim women are in the news everywhere — everywhere, that is, but the United Nations. The U.N.’s lead agency responsible for the promotion and protection of women’s rights the world over, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), ended its 51 session on March 9, 2007, by criticizing only one state — Israel.

The same week the commission focused specifically only on the state of Israel, 33 Muslim women engaging in peaceful protest outside a courthouse in Tehran were abruptly arrested on charges of “endangering national security.” Their goal? To put an end to polygamy and to child-custody laws that strip mothers in Iran of the right to raise and protect their own children. On March 8 — International Women’s Day — 700 women’s-rights activists again gathered in front of the parliament building in Tehran, demanding fair trials for the women jailed a few days earlier. Iranian security forces and ranks of baton-wielding police once more descended on the women, driving them back with physical force, verbal obscenities, and threats of more to come.

In Saudi Arabia, during the first week of March, a 19-year-old girl who was kidnapped at knifepoint, gang-raped, and then beaten by her brother for having “allowed” herself to become the victim of a rape has been sentenced to 90 lashes. Her crime? Meeting a young man who was not a family member. Indeed, one of her judges told this young woman she was lucky to have not gotten jail time.

But at the U.N., the Women’s Rights Commission adopted only one country-specific resolution on “Palestinian women.” Apparently, the members had missed the headlines about the arrests in Tehran and the teenager in Riyadh, emblematic of legal systems built on gross and systematic discrimination against women. They also failed to notice the millions of vulnerable women and girls raped, displaced, dead or dying in Sudan, the millions of women forcibly aborted in China, and the thousands murdered or forced to commit suicide for the crime of “dishonoring” their fathers and brothers across the Arab and Muslim world.

The resolution on the injustices “the occupation of Palestine imposes on Palestinian women” was adopted by a vote of 40 to 2. The Palestinian U.N. representative “thanked those who had voted in favor of the resolution,” especially the “Group of 77” — developing countries and China — all beacons for human rights and women’s equality. Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, made a one minute “explanation” excusing its affirmative vote by mumbling “we express our deep concerns for the impact on all women in the region including Israeli women.” (They had not bothered to insist such language be inserted in the resolution itself.) For 60 seconds, the representative of the country where millions of Jewish women and girls were murdered en masse not so long ago took notice of the Jewish mothers and daughters who have fallen victim to terrorism in the Jewish state. This is the moral corruption that the U.N. breeds within democracies like Germany. In an institution directed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the European Union grovels while the real abusers cheer.

Only the United States and Canada confronted the move for what it was: the hijacking of yet another U.N. body to spin world opinion against Israel and toward the Palestinian Authority. No matter that the PA is the ruling body of a would-be state whose leaders encourage men and women to encase their bodies in explosives in order to blow themselves and countless innocent civilians to kingdom come.

In 2003, 19-year-old Palestinian Hiba Daraghmeh detonated a belt filled with explosives that was strapped to her waist, killing herself and three Israelis and injuring 93 others in a shopping mall in northern Israel. She was hailed as an Islamic paragon — never meeting boys in public, not even drinking tea at her university cafeteria. Indeed, the first time the world saw her young face unveiled was in an Islamic Jihad poster released after her death.

Female suicide bombing is one form of gender equality the Palestinian leadership doesn’t mind, and the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women doesn’t mention.


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