The United Nations has elected Saudi Arabia to their Commission on the Status of Women, prompting backlash from humans rights groups worldwide.
The Gulf State is now the 45th country to sit at the UN panel tasked with “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 the UN’s website.
The announcement has drawn strong condemnation from human rights groups like the NGO (nongovernmental organization) watchdog UN Watch.
“Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” said UN Watch executive Hillel Neuer in a statement. “Every Saudi woman must have a male guardian who makes all critical decisions on her behalf, controlling a woman’s life from birth until death.”
“Saudi Arabia also bans women from driving cars.”
Currently the Islamist kingdom also forbids women from wearing makeup and Western clothing, competing in sports, swimming in pools, and controlling her own finances.
The election took place with a secret vote through the UN’s Economic and Social Council, reported The Hill.
Neuer noted that at least five EU members voted for the Saudis to serve four years on the commission.
The move is the latest in Saudi Arabia’s advancement onto the wider global policy-making arena, as the Gulf State has also ironically been sitting on the UN Human Rights Council since 2014.
“It is scandalous that the UN chose a country that has beheaded more people this year than ISIS to be the head of a key human rights panel. Petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights,” Neuer had said.
In 2016, Saudi Arabia reinforced its restrictive policy against women drivers by expanding the availability of ride sharing platforms like Uber and Lyft in the kingdom so that women can get around easier without violating Sharia law.