Rights of Women in China, Saudi Arabia and Iran

UN Watch Testimony to UN Human Rights Council, Agenda Item 3, delivered by Alexia Bedat, 15 September 2011

Thank you, Madam President.

Under Articles 2, 5 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, women are guaranteed equal treatment under the law and protection from degrading treatment. Today we ask: Is this promise being translated into practice?

To find the answer, we must see reality from the perspective of real women on the ground. Let us consider three concrete examples:

1. China. According to a panel of experts including US Congressman Chris Smith, as a result of the “One child policy,” every 2.4 seconds a woman in China undergoes a forced abortion.  Xiao Ai Ying is one of these women. Last year, eight months into her pregnancy, twelve government officials broke into her home, brutally kicked her in the stomach and dragged her screaming to the hospital.  Madam President, isn’t China a member of this Council, and therefore pledged to the highest standards of human rights?

2. Saudi Arabia. According to Freedom House, women in Saudi Arabia cannot travel, work or marry without permission from their male guardian. It is the only country where women are denied the right to vote or to drive a car.  When Ms. Manal al-Sherif defied the driving ban this May, she was arbitrarily arrested. In January, after a woman was victimized by gang-rape, a court in Jeddah sentenced her to 100 lashes, and one year in prison. Madam President, isn’t Saudi Arabia a member of this Council?

3. The Islamic Republic of Iran. Discrimination is built into the legal system. Under Iran’s Civil Code, a woman needs her father’s permission to marry, can be prevented by her husband from entering employment, and has limited rights to request divorce. When Maryam Bidgoli opposed this discrimination, with her One Million Signatures Campaign, she was imprisoned in July. Madam President, isn’t Iran a member of the UN Commission on the Status of Women?

For all these victims, time is running out.  Just think: In the time I’ve been speaking, 50 women in China just had their motherhood violated.

Thank you, Madam President.

REPLY OF CHINA: Click here for video (minute 2:46:55)

The Chinese delegation also wished to make a response to the family-planning policies comments made by United Nations Watch. China places a lot of stress on family planning. This is based on consideration of reality in China which includes the long-term interests of the nation and practical needs of the people. This is to cope with the demographic reality in China and also takes into consideration the relationship between population and resources. The Chinese government has always claimed that the implementation of the family-planning policies should follow the law based on voluntary, safe and informed decision-making principles and the Chinese government is against any forced or ordering people to implement this policy. The Chinese government encourages people to make their views known and welcomes the involvement of people including the NGOs in the decision-making process, and expressing their views and making positive and beneficial suggestions and proposals in such decision-making.

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