Friday, December 21, 2007

They Never Had it So Good

Michal Nissenson / Omedia

The UN Committee on the Status of Women examined the status of women around the globe and declared that only one violated women’s rights: Israel. Millions of women in the Muslim world and elsewhere would be glad to hear that the committee thinks they are fine Fact can sometimes be stranger than fiction. At least that is what we learn from the official statement of the UN Committee on the Status of Women, which convened to examine the status of women across the globe. The committee is responsible for an issue of unrivalled importance—the repression and abuse of women across the world, mostly in non-western countries. However, when the committee convened and delivered its conclusions, it was impossible not to be startled by the incredible gap between what is happening in the world and the situation as the committee sees it. Out of all the UN member countries, the committee deemed it appropriate to accuse only one country of violating women’s rights and to call for measures to be taken against it. That country is Israel. Forty of the 42 member states of the committee that participated in the debate were in favor of singling out Israel as the only country in the world today found in violation of women’s rights, to be more precise, Palestinian women’s rights. The expression “UN shmu en” coined by Ben Gurion fifty years ago, still applies.

Judging by the conclusions of the UN Committee on the Status of Women, millions of women across the Muslim world, Africa, the Far East, and elsewhere do not suffer from officially sanctioned discrimination, discrimination with regard to inheritance, division of property, abuse by marriage and divorce laws, forced female circumcision, in fact they aren’t suffering one tiny bit. At any rate, not in a way that is worthy of the UN General Assembly’s attention. Ask Iran, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, China, and other countries famous for their liberal policies towards women—they are all committee members. Israel is the only country where women suffer from discrimination. In Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, it’s not like that at all. The women there are free—to walk around behind a veil, to be beaten by their husband if they refuse to have sex with him, to leave the house only if he allows it. So to avoid throwing accusations around, here is a short survey of the status of women in the above countries so we can see how marvelous women’s personal circumstances are and how much they don’t need the attention of the UN committee on the status of women.

Afghanistan: The Patient Died After Being Forbidden to Be Treated by a Male Doctor

In her article “The Invisible Women of Afghanistan”, published in “Noga—A Feminist Journal”, writer Ariella Deor examined the status of women in Afghanistan since the Taliban came to power. Deor made contact with an Afghan feminist women’s organization called RAWA. Owing to the laws of the Taliban, RAWA could not operate in Afghanistan and so its members are exiled in Pakistan. Women from the organization described the rigid laws of the Taliban concerning Afghan women and the continuous oppression of women in the country. Although the Taliban regime was overthrown, a large part of what she says in her article still applies in Afghanistan. Among other things, the article describes the story of an Afghan woman who arrived at a hospital suffering from horrific burns to 80% of her body. The only doctor in the hospital at that hour was a man and the Taliban representative on the premises forbad him to treat the women, who died of her injuries.

RAWA has a website with particularly disturbing stories about women who were injured by their husbands or directly by the Afghan authorities and nothing was done to help them or punish their attackers. The following link (Warning: highly distressing images) tells the story of Golbar, a woman who was burned by her husband. Despite the injuries he caused, the Afghanistan authorities did see it necessary to arrest the abusing husband. This link (Warning: highly distressing images) contains the story of a young girl who was raped by the local police of the province where she lived and a report about the sale of young girls and children in Afghanistan. The price of a young child / girl is 50,000 afghanis, $1,000. Human trafficking is considered a serious crime. Despite the lively trade in women in another province of Afghanistan, the representatives of the UN committee on the status of women did not think it of any importance to come out strongly against the Afghan government which does not do enough to erase the problem.

For the information of the UN committee on the status of women, this is how liberated Afghan women are: by Taliban law, Afghan women are forbidden to work outside the home, actually, it is forbidden for them to leave the house at all without the close escort of a male relative. They are forbidden to attend school, and all the schools for girls in the country were closed down. It is forbidden for them to take part in any cultural or sports activities. Women may not receive legal protection, and are only allowed to turn to the courts through the mediation of a man and as in the tragic case described above, it is forbidden for women to receive medical treatment from a male doctor. Also, they may not have surgery if the surgical team includes men. This is a difficult problem because women are forbidden to work or study, which means there cannot be women doctors.

Iran: A Father Has the Right to Marry His Daughter to Whoever he Likes and At Any Age

The status of Iranian women is not as bad as Afghan women, but you would hardly call them “liberated”. For example, a father has the right to marry off his daughter at any age. The requirement that the bride must agree to her marriage is bypassed by a loophole in the law allowing a father to gain his daughter’s consent after the marriage, years later. A husband can divorce his wife without her consent, and have additional wives. A woman has no right to ask her husband for a divorce because he decided to have other wives. Moreover, despite all the conservative apparel, Iran has a bustling prostitution industry, some of it forced. Permission to commit rape is given with religious consent, and the prohibition on sexual relations outside marriage is solved by what the Koran calls “temporary marriage”. A man marries a woman and divorces her after several hours. The “temporary husband” does not have to support the woman who has no rights whatsoever. In addition, members of the “Revolutionary Guard” marry/ rape women who are imprisoned in Iranian jails and awaiting execution before the sentence is carried out. The justification is that according to the Muslim religion a virgin goes to paradise and rape ensures that the imprisoned regime opponents will go to hell.

Saudi Arabia: Cannot Leave the House without Permission

Saudi Arabian women are also liberated women, and can do what they like. On condition, of course, that it doesn’t involve extreme behavior like leaving the house semi-clothed, without their abaya and veil—they must never do that. They can’t leave their house without permission either, they cannot work in the same place as men. However, it is clear why the committee on the status of women decided not to come out strongly against Saudi Arabia and accuse it of using the law to violate women’s freedom of movement and employment: because this is a “relatively advanced” country and to solve the problem it has built industrial villages for women only. Nor was the committee bothered it seems by the fact that women are forced to divorce their husbands if their tribal pedigree is higher than that of their husband.

Omedia recently published the translation of a poem by Wajeha Al-Huwaider, a Saudi liberal, explaining how you know when you are in an Arab country. The following extracts relate to the status of women in Arab countries.

"When covering the woman's head is more important than financial and administrative corruption, embezzlement, and betrayal of the homeland - do not be astonished, you are in an Arab country…

"When you discover that a woman is worth half of what a man is worth, or less - do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country…

"When young women students are publicly flogged merely for exposing their eyes - you are in an Arab country…

"When women are [seen as] house ornaments which can be replaced at any time - bemoan your fate, you are in an Arab country.

"When birth control and family planning are perceived as a Western plot - place your trust in Allah, you are in an Arab country…


On consideration, it is difficult to understand why the committee chose to single Israel out as the only country in the world that violates women’s rights, and on top of that why only three years’ ago the UN committee on the status of women reported what great progress and improvement Arab countries have made regarding women’s rights. There is an internet video clip of an Iranian cleric placing restrictions on men who wish to beat their wives and forbidding them to hit their wife in front of the children or on her face (the rest of the body is permitted). Is this a sign of the progress in the status of women from Arab counties that the committee on the status of women was referring to?

It may be unpleasant to admit, but the only way to understand the shocking conclusions reached by UN committees, including the ones addressing meta-national issues like the status of women, is that it is pure aggression against Israel, never mind about the facts. Without sounding like a conspiracy theory nut, this current example certainly indicates a serious problem with the UN’s thinking and an inbuilt hostility to Israel in its committee structure. If nary a whisper of condemnation is heard against countries where women are forcibly circumcised, while a country in which women can run for president is condemned and scolded by a huge majority—then something is very, very wrong.

Comment: Can this get any more outrageous? I live in Israel and I can tell you how false this report is-fact of the matter, women have achieved a status in Israel that makes every other Western woman envious. This report should once and for all indicate how absurd the UN has become-how out of balance and how dangerous for Western countries. Even the most ardent of UN supporters has to cringe today reading this report that does nothing more than crown the UN the best liar in the univesre!

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