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By Russ Read
The United Nations put Saudi Arabia on its commission for the empowerment of women Wednesday, despite the country mandating women can’t leave home without a male guardian.
The UN’s Economic and Social Council voted by secret ballot to put Saudi Arabia on the Commission on the Status of Women.
It is the principal international organization responsible for the “promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women,” according to the commission’s website.
Saudi Arabia, a country notorious for its suppression of women’s rights, was ranked 134th out of 145 countries for gender equality in 2015. Saudi women are largely confined to the home under the direct supervision of male guardians, usually relatives, known as walis. A Saudi woman must obtain their wali’s permission to travel, marry, engage in business or undergo some medical procedures.
Women in Saudi Arabia were not allowed to vote or participate in politics until 2015.
Saudi women also suffer high rates of domestic abuse, in addition to legal limitations. Saudi Arabia’s Makkah region recorded its highest amount of domestic violence cases in 2016, a trend seen across the country.
Saudi Arabia’s mistreatment of women has forced some to attempt to flee and seek asylum in western countries. Such actions are punished with jail time, or worse, should the woman be caught.
The UN was criticized in November for electing Saudi Arabia to its human rights council, despite its questionable record. Several human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, criticized Saudi Arabia’s election to the council and called for the suspension of the country’s membership.
Saudi Arabia’s membership to both the human rights council and commission on the status of women will give it a say in key resolutions and platforms over the next several years.