Saudi Arabia Voted Into UN Women’s Panel

May 2nd, 2017 | By | Category: News Posts

On April 19, Saudi Arabia was elected to serve on the United Nations Commission on the State of Women, which is “dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women” despite the fact that women in Saudi Arabia strive to achieve equality in their own country.

Human Rights Watch reports that a few days before the vote, Mariam al-Oteibi, a 29-year-old woman from Saudi Arabia, fled from abusive family members in al-Qassim Province for Riyadh, “only to be captured by authorities and jailed for having the temerity to dream of making her own life decisions. She currently sits in Buraida Prison in al-Qassim.”

“Mariam chafed for years under the oppressive male guardianship system which forbids women from obtaining a passport, marrying, or traveling abroad without the approval of a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother, or son. Authorities previously arrested Mariam briefly in November 2016, after she attempted to file an abuse claim against her brother, but her family pre-empted her and had her jailed on a counter ‘disobedience’ complaint. Following a brief detention, authorities returned her to her family and the abuse continued.”

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On April 10, Dina Ali Lasloom, 24, tried to flee to Australia from Kuwait to escape restrictions imposed by her family. She was returned to Saudi Arabia while in airport transit in Manila to the Philippines. She is now in a detention center facing indefinite detention or possible forced return to her family.

According to Human Rights Watch:

Saudi Arabia has made marginal improvements on women’s rights in recent years, primarily in employment and access to higher education, but such changes have been hindered or even nullified because authorities have allowed the male guardianship system to remain largely intact, enabling men to maintain control over female relative’s lives.

Saudi Arabia’s election to the commission, which was supported by 47 states, including at least five European countries, is an affront to the mission of the commission itself and a rebuke to Saudi women. Belgium’s prime minister later said he regretted his country’s vote.

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