News and Commentary

U.N. Elects Iran, China To Women’s Rights Commission

Both countries received dozens of votes from member states.
BLACKBURN, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 06: A Muslim woman wearing a Niqab poses inside an Asian fashion shop in the British northern town of Blackburn, the constituency of Member of Parliament Jack Straw, where a quarter of his constituents are Muslim on October 6, 2006, Blackburn, England. Leader of the House of Commons Jack Straw has said that he asked Muslim women attending his Blackburn constituency surgeries if they would mind removing veils. The comments have caused anger within the Muslim community.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The United Nations on Tuesday voted to elect notorious human rights abusers Iran and China to the international body’s commission on women’s rights.

The U.N.’s Economic and Social Council voted to elect Iran and China to the Commission on the Status of Women, which is “exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.” Iran received 43 votes and China 48 votes out of a total of 53 votes. The countries’ four-year terms on the commission will begin next year.

Iran’s atrocious record on human rights, including women’s rights, is well-documented. The state terror sponsor allows underage marriages of girls as young as 13 — and as young as 9 with parental permission — enforces strict restrictions on women’s clothing, and carries out child executions. Women are severely limited regarding their physical mobility, education, financial independence, and work opportunities and pay. As many as 450 Iranian women are murdered in “honor killings” every year.

As recently as 2019, a U.N. panel chastised Iran for its poor record on women’s rights and urged the country to adopt specific improvements. Just last month, the State Department released a report calling Iran an “authoritarian theocratic republic” that commits significant human rights abuses including a lack of accountability for violence against women. Also in 2019, authorities forced a pair of twin sisters to record a “confession” in which the sisters called themselves “naive, dumb, and passive” and “of weak personality,” for protesting hijab laws, according to the report.

In China, women have been limited to having only two children since 2015, when China loosened its draconian decades-old one-child policy. More recently, the world’s second-largest economy has taken extreme measures to curb birth rates among Uyghurs and other minorities in order to suppress China’s Muslim population. The Chinese government systematically forces minority women to take pregnancy tests and submit to forced sterilization, intrauterine birth control devices, and abortions. Since 2017, the government has detained at least one million Uyghur Muslims and other minorities and forced them into “re-education camps,” where they are meant to learn loyalty to the state.

China also openly discriminates against women in the workplace, especially if the woman has children, and has a domestic violence epidemic.

Human rights groups immediately expressed their chagrin and condemned the U.N. vote.

“Electing the Islamic Republic of Iran to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of human rights group UN Watch, which first reported Iran’s election to the commission. “It’s absurd — and morally reprehensible. This is a black day for women’s rights, and for all human rights.”

UN Watch pointed out that despite the ballot being secret, at least four out of 15 Western democracies must have voted for Iran. Likewise, at least nine Western democracies must have voted for China. The countries that may have voted for Iran or China’s presence on the commission include Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Latvia, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield has yet to comment on Iran and China’s election to the women’s rights commission.

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