Monday, 3 May 2010

Iran wins a seat on the U. N. Commission on the Status of Women

Your U.N. at Work!
Last week Iran won a seat at the U.N.'s Commission on the Status of Women, the mission of which is to "set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide." Call it another example of your U.N. at work.

We're told Iran's victory was due to a dearth of competition for the spot. Heaven forfend the commission should let a vacancy go unfilled, rather than elect a regime that recently announced it would arrest suntanned women, and which has blamed provocative female dress for earthquakes.

Those are just the most recent outrages, but far from the most serious. The world—along with, apparently, the U.N.'s "principal global policy-making body" for equal gender rights—has grown used to Tehran denying women's right to choose their own husbands; the right to protection against violence; and the right to seek custody of their children in the event of divorce. Death-by-stoning for "adulterous" women is another of the Islamic Revolution's contributions to the advancement of women. Iran's penal code doesn't recognize rape as a distinct offense, and allows a man to murder his wife and her lover if he catches them in the act, according to Freedom House.

So it's no coincidence that female activists have been at the forefront of Iran's democracy movement. They have the most to gain and the least to lose from liberalization. According to Iran's Feminist School group, 68 female anti-discrimination activists were arrested in Iran between July 2008 and February 2009, well before last June's fraudulent elections swept other groups into the country's democracy movement.

Iranian women, certainly, can smell the fraud. Consider the letter opposing Iran's appointment to the Commission, signed by 214 Iranian women's-rights activists, both inside Iran and in exile, and endorsed by groups such as "Women Living Under Muslim Law." The letter warns that "the Iranian government will certainly use this opportunity to curtail progress and the advancement of women."

Ending the kind of nightmares lived by Iranian women was precisely what Eleanor Roosevelt had in mind in 1946, when she read an open letter to "the women of the world" that would help inspire the U.N.'s women's commission. Its goals were lofty and remain as important. Reality, as practiced by the UN, has been otherwise.


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