UN envoy challenges composition of UN Women’s Board
Mr Stephen Lewis, a former United Nations Envoy on HIV and AIDS for Africa challenged the membership of five countries on the UN Agency on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Executive Board.
He explained that he disapproved of the membership of Saudi Arabia, Libya, Bangladesh, Iran and Democratic Republic of Congo on the Executive Board because of their anti-gender laws and practices.
The UN Women was formed to support the Commission on the Status of Women and other inter-governmental bodies in devising policies and also helping member states to implement standards.
It is also to provide technical and financial support to the countries and assist them to forge partnerships with civil society.
Speaking at an international women’s conference in Accra on the theme: “Quality versus Quantity; How far have we come in promoting Africa women’s participation in politics,” Mr Lewis said the five countries’ membership ‘amounted to international trafficking of the rights of women.’
The Women’s Conference was organized by the African Women Development Fund to celebrate its 10th anniversary was attended by leading accomplished African women, including the Liberian President, Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ; Vice President of Malawi, Mrs. Joyce Banda, Ministers of State and Parliamentarians.
He said: “In Saudi Arabia, women are not entitled to drive; women require a male guardian’s consent to have a passport and to travel abroad. In a Saudi Court of Law, the testimony of one man equals that of two women.
“Its impossible to know from day to day where Libya falls on any given issue, the rights of women included, and its presence on the Board is akin to farce, Bangladesh is a country that stands against gender equality…and now they sit on the Board of UN Women.
“Democratic Republic of the Congo’s membership is a true travesty of the integrity of the UN Women; rape has been used unimpeded as a strategy of conflict throughout the war. And even though Iran lost the election to be a member, it was included in a block of 10 countries for an election by acclamation.
“Iran is a country where domestic violence is legal; marital rape is legal. A charge of rape can indeed be brought by a woman, but four male witnesses are required, or three men and two women, and if the charge fails, the woman who made the accusation receives 80 lashes.”
The UN Women is also mandated to hold the world body accountable for its own commitments on gender equality. The UN Women will be officially established on January 1, 2011.
The 41 board members were selected on the following basis: 10 from Africa, 10 from Asia, four from Eastern Europe, six from Latin America and the Caribbean, five from Western Europe and six from contributing countries.
Elected from the African Group were Angola, Cape Verde, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Lesotho, Libya, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Republic of Korea and Timor-Leste were elected from among the Asian States.
Estonia, Hungary, Russia and Ukraine were elected from among the Eastern European States, while Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg and Sweden were elected from the Western European and Other States.
In addition, the Council elected Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada and Peru from the group of Latin American and Caribbean States.
The Council also elected Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, United Kingdom and United States from among the “contributing countries,” for three-year terms beginning today.
Headed by former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, UN Women is the merger of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW).