The Corner

Law & the Courts

U.N. Council Votes to Put Saudi Arabia on a Women’s-Rights Commission

It’s hard to fathom the scale of the U.N.’s hypocrisy on human rights, but electing Saudi Arabia to the Commission on the Status of Women gives some indication of its depth. In ascending to the body, the Saudi government will serve alongside fellow Middle Eastern dictatorship and human-rights luminary Iran, which joined in 2014.

That’s the same Saudi Arabia that bans women from driving, forbids them to associate with men who aren’t family, and chooses for them what they will wear. Over at UN Watch, Hillel Neuer describes the oppression that Saudi women face: “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.”

Forty-seven countries in the U.N. Economic and Social Council voted in a secret ballot for the Saudis to join the women’s commission, which means that at least 15 liberal democratic states voted to include the Saudis, according to UN Watch’s calculation. Surely, palms were greased and deals were made behind closed doors, but the collective embarrassment extends to the U.N. as a whole, which Nikki Haley has taken to calling “corrupt” on matters of human rights.

Joining this commission may be part of the Saudis’ ongoing propaganda effort to change their image from one of a sexist and backward regime to one of a country attempting to “modernize.” So far, that effort has involved starting a “Girls Council,” the first meeting of which was notable for being entirely male. The putative chairwoman of the council is Princess Abir bint Salman, who, despite her high status, was nevertheless prohibited by law from appearing physically at the launch of this council. She was allowed to address the group by video, but appearing in person would have broken Saudi sex-segregation laws.

It’s doubtful that she will start a women’s-rights revolution any time soon. In the meantime, the men who lead her country will have ample opportunity to contribute their wisdom on women’s “equality and empowerment” to the U.N.’s commission.

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