The U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the “global champion for gender equality,” abandoned billions of women and girls, and lost all credibility when it elected Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Lebanon, Mauritania and Tunisia to four-year terms on the council.
Pakistan, the worst of these six offenders, is the ninth-worst out of 167 countries on Georgetown University’s Women, Peace and Security Index. Pakistani activists estimate that 1,000 honor killings still occur annually while 21 percent of girls are forced into marriage before their 18th birthday.
Egypt and Mauritania tied at 151, Lebanon ranked 147th, and Tunisia and Iran could set an example for their CSW colleagues with still abysmal rankings at 121 and 118, respectively.
In other words, there are only a handful of countries in the world where the status of women is worse than in some of those recently elected to the CSW.
This isn’t the first time that egregious abusers of women’s rights have been elected to positions on councils specifically geared to end such abuse. Saudi Arabia was elected to the CSW in 2017 and the Executive Board of U.N. Women, also known as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, and the U.N. Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in 2018. Iraq and Algeria have also served on the CSW.
By allowing countries with these records on women’s rights to serve on bodies charged with promoting the advancement of women, the United Nations has demonstrated that it does not take violence against women seriously. It has given six new members of CSW a free pass to continue forced marriages, honor killings, rape and more by creating a facade of at least working to improve the welfare of their women.
According to the CSW’s website, some of the organization’s most important duties are “documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.” Given that this commission is packed with countries that offer minimal to no legal protection for women against human-rights abuses, I would seriously question the accuracy of their documentation and the significance of their global standards.
The U.N. Women website states that all of their programs are guided by “international commitments to women’s representation,” and proceeds to list conventions and platforms declaring women’s rights.
Article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women states that all parties “agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women,” one example of which is adopting “appropriate legislative and other measures, including sanctions where appropriate, prohibiting all discrimination against women.”
Allowing countries with rampant abuse of women to be part of this body’s decision-making process is the opposite of applying sanctions and an indication that words on U.N. websites may be just that. It’s simply good PR for these six countries that oppress women and could provide them cover to defend themselves against international censure. Not only do the above countries have no credibility on this issue; countries that previously served on CSW with credibility and voted for these new members also deserve international censure.
Because of such actions, the commission makes a complete mockery of why it was created in the first place, and has sold out young girls and women around the globe. Activists will have to make do without it.
Naomi Grant is the director of communications at the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).