It’s time to call out the UN’s ‘mockery of human rights’

My argument is that the United Nations is an organisation riddled with hypocrisy. When you think of the world’s worst violator of women rights, which country comes to mind? My answer would be Saudi Arabia due to its incredibly restrictive laws for women, for example, the male guardianship system. When I asked my colleagues, the majority called out Afghanistan, which boasts a forced marriage rate of 70-80% and a domestic violence rate of 87.2%. I even posed the question on my social media, in which the majority of people replied stating that they also thought Saudi Arabia was the worlds worst violator. However, when you ask the United Nations, they would put the decision to 54 countries, of which 10 of those make up the bottom 20 out of 152 countries in the Women, Peace and Security Index.

The only country that they have condemned as being the world’s worst violator of women rights is a country whose Declaration of Independence was signed by two women, a country who has had a female head of government and a country which in 2017 was declared the 8th safest country for women. This country is Israel. The aim of this piece is not to argue about why Israel does not deserve to be condemned as the worst violator of women’s rights, but rather to show through data concerning the recent draft resolution against Israel, why it is complete hypocrisy and a mockery of the UN system to a) allow certain countries to vote on issues that they themselves act poorly on and b) fail to condemn those that deserve it.

This July, the Draft Resolution, “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian Women” was published, after a vote of 40-2 with nine abstentions singled out Israel as the only violator of women’s rights. UN Women have stated that as a result of the ‘Israeli occupation’ gender dynamics are “severely impacted” which has resulted in less women being represented in political authority roles. Mirroring this viewpoint, in the resolution it was stressed that there must be “efforts to increase the role of Palestinian women in decision making”. Firstly, it must be stated that it is confusing that this is a point being stressed in a resolution condemning Israel as Israel has no authority in Palestinian elections.

However, regardless, let’s look at the data regarding women in decision-making roles. Palestinian women make up 13% of government. Out of those that voted for Israel as the world’s worst violator of women rights, eight countries have a percentage of women in government that is less than the percentage of Palestinian women in government – those countries being: Mali, Ghana, Swaziland, Iran, India and Japan. Even the United States, “superpower” and “leader of the free world”, only has a percentage of 19.6% of women in government. Now there are two questions we must ask: 1) representation is clearly an issue many different societies face, so why is this issue being “stressed” in a resolution that only condemns Israel? 2) For the countries with a lower percentage, if this issue is so important, where is the UN’s condemnation of these countries as being violators of women’s rights?

Furthermore, in a resolution concerning Palestinian women and girls it is surprising that there was no condemnation of the Palestinian Authority concerning the issue of “honour” killings. In 2018, it was reported that at least 28 women and girls were murdered by male relatives in “honour” killings. This figure is the same as the figure that was reported in 2013 and, therefore, shows that no provisions have been put in place to solve this issue, with instead, judges using provisions under the Jordanian Penal Code to justify reducing the sentences of those convicted of “honour” killings. Moreover, it has also been reported that despite agreeing to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), national legislation has still not been changed to reflect this and still follows articles of the Jordanian Penal Code which specifically harms women and girls. Where is the condemnation from the UN body towards the Palestinian Authority for failing to implement these provisions?

The UN is supposed to be a body that works towards tackling issues and calling out countries that fail to do right by their citizens and the international community. Their failure to call out major abusers and instead let them condemn other countries, is like Nikki Haley said, “a mockery of human rights.”

About the Author
Jessica Bloom is studying International Relations at the University of Sussex. She is an active member of the International Relations Society and Jewish Society at Sussex University. Her interests include human rights, Middle Eastern Security and East Asian trade and development.
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