Then vies for position on new UN ‘equality for women’ : Iran stones women

Posted by Zotta Rendevouz

Iran stones women, then vies for position on new UN ‘equality for women’ board

UNITED NATIONS/WOMEN'S RIGHTS -- The U.S. and human rights groups are outraged that Iran, a country that sentenced a woman convicted of adultery to death by stoning, could likely become a member of the board of a new U.N. agency to promote equality for women, "UN Women."

Also upsetting to some rights groups is the fact that Saudi Arabia, a country where women are not allowed to drive and are barred from many facilities used by men, is also vying to join the governing body of UN Women.

The Canadian Press reported that the General Assembly resolution adopted in July - that merged four U.N. bodies dealing with women's issues into a single agency with greater clout to represent half the world's population - calls for a 41-member executive board, with 35 members chosen by regional groups and six representing donor nations.

Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. Mission, said Wednesday that Iran's membership "would send the wrong signal at the start of this exciting new initiative."

"UN Women is a vital new agency tasked with promoting gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide," he said. "We and many other countries are concerned by the negative implications of Iran's potential board memberships, given its poor record on human rights and the treatment of women.

"There are many qualified countries that would make positive and constructive contributions as board members," Kornblau said.

The stoning sentence against the 43-year-old woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, has raised an international outcry, embarrassing Iran.

Philippe Bolopion, U.N. advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said "it's puzzling that Iran would have the nerve to be a candidate for the board of UN Women, and even more puzzling if the Asia group lets Iran get away with it."

"Having on top of it Saudi Arabia, a country with a track record on women's rights as horrendous as Iran's, would add insult to injury," he said.

According to the Canadian Press, Bolopion called their potential membership "an affront to women around the world who are placing their hopes in UN Women," but he expressed hope that the board's overall composition will ensure that neither country will be able to use their position to undermine the agency's work.

UN Women was set up as a platform to achieve women’s equality, calling for governments to end discrimination against women and close the gender gap in 12 critical areas including human rights, political participation, education, health, and employment.

"Sadly, the issue is not just an individual country's track record on women's rights, dismal though that may be," Diaz said. "A clean slate guarantees countries a seat in the executive body, regardless of their record in protecting women's rights or promoting gender equality. The failure to ensure competitive elections is the responsibility of all member states."

Cora Weiss, president of the Hague Appeal for Peace, said that if board membership "helps to influence Iran's attitude toward women then fine, but if Iran uses it to hold back our dreams and vision for equality then it's a disaster."

According to U.N. diplomats, the 10 countries selected by the Asian group for the board are Iran, Bangladesh, India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan and Pakistan. Eastern Europe and Latin America have put forward contested slates, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the lists have not been made public.

The resolution earmarks four seats from the 10 top donor nations and diplomats said the candidates are the United States, Britain, Spain and Norway. It allocated two seats to contributors from developing countries and diplomats said the candidates are Saudi Arabia and Mexico.