FRESH AIR

The UN, Iran and Women’s Rights

Mar 15, 2019 | Judy Maynard

Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian Human Rights Lawyer recently sentenced to a 33 year prison term and 148 lashes
Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian Human Rights Lawyer recently sentenced to a 33 year prison term and 148 lashes

The UN continues to produce some of the world’s most bitter satire. Its Commission on the Status of Women “is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women [and] is instrumental in promoting women’s rights.” So, following hot on the heels of International Women’s Day, it thought it appropriate to appoint the Islamic Republic of Iran to its five member Working Group on Communications.

Iran is a bastion of “gender justice”, according to its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and to say otherwise is a Zionist plot. Others might disagree, such as the World Economic Forum, which ranks Iran 142nd out of 149 countries for gender parity in its Global Gender Gap Index 2018, taking into account economic, educational, health and political empowerment considerations.

The Commission’s Working Group considers communications received by the UN of alleged human rights violations affecting the status of women, and uses these to identify “trends and patterns of injustice and discriminatory practices against women for purposes of policy formulation and development of strategies for the promotion of gender equality.”

It might like to consider the shocking case of Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian human rights lawyer, who almost simultaneously with her nation’s UN appointment, was sentenced to a 33 year prison term and 148 lashes, according to her family. This comes in addition to a five year sentence she is already serving. Her conviction, supposedly on such grounds as national security and insulting the Supreme Leader, is due solely according to Amnesty International to “her peaceful human rights work, including her defence of women protesting Iran’s abusive forced hijab (veiling) laws, and her outspoken opposition to the death penalty.” The courageous Sotoudeh, recipient of the EU’s most prestigious human rights award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, sits in an Iranian jail convicted of trumped up charges, while her compatriots at UN headquarters in New York consider the “trends and patterns” of injustice against women.

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