Electing Saudi Arabia to UN women’s rights commission ‘absurd’: UN watchdog

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Critics question Saudi Arabia joining UN Commission on Status of Women
WATCH: Saudi Arabia has been elected to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and critics are crying foul. The Middle Eastern country has a dismal record on women's rights and as Vassy Kapelos reports, there are calls for Ottawa to call out the UN on this – Apr 24, 2017

Saudi Arabia, a country accused of having an atrocious human rights record for treatment of women, has been elected to the United Nation’s Commission of the Status of Women (CSW), prompting backlash.

On Friday, Saudi Arabia was among 13 countries elected to the commission’s 63rd session by secret ballot, sparking backlash from a UN watchdog.

Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch condemned the country’s election to the commission, saying Saudi Arabia is “the world’s most misogynistic regime.”

“Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based human rights group, said in a statement. “It’s absurd.”

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia launched a ‘Girls Council.’ There were 13 men on stage and no women

Saudi Arabia will sit with 44 other countries on the UN panel for the 2018 through 2022 term.

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“Saudi Arabia was elected to the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) 2018-2022 and the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS 2017-2020,” the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations confirmed on Twitter Friday.

According to the UN, the CSW “is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”

Saudi Arabia has strict gender codes which prevent women from driving and must obey a dress code requiring them to wear loose robes. Women are also prevented from interacting with men who they are not related to and must live under the supervision of a male guardian.

“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,” Neuer said in a statement. “Saudi Arabia also bans women from driving cars.”

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READ MORE: Saudi woman arrested for sharing photo of herself in a dress on Twitter

In March, the oil-rich country launched a “Girls Council” in support of the welfare of women and girls in Saudi Arabia.

The March 13 launch was led by Prince Faisal bin Michal bin Saud, and the council is chaired by his wife, Princess Abir bint Salman. However the princess wasn’t able to be at the launch because of gender restrictions. Instead, she, along with the other women on the council, were video-conferenced into the event.

with a file from Global News reporter Rebecca Joseph

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