UN elects Saudi Arabia to women's rights commission

In a secret ballot the members of the United Nations have elected Saudi Arabia to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. There the Gulf monarchy - with its reputation for misogyny - is to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women until 2022. Reports that the government in Stockholm voted for the move have triggered outrage in Swedish media.

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Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Riyahd promoting women's rights is a joke

The fact that Stockholm apparently voted in favour of Saudi Arabia being in the commission is shocking, Dagens Nyheter writes, judging Swedish Foreign Minister Wallström by her own standards:

“There's a ghastly dissonance between the grandiloquent words about a 'feminist foreign policy' and what actually happens when push comes to shove. ... Saudi Arabia being a member of the women's rights commission is a farce of the kind that often occurs in the UN's work. In the UN skyscraper in New York democracies are forced to work together with rogue states. That's just how it is in the world - and in the UN. You have to make the best of things. Nevertheless, electing sheikhs who hate women and punish them with beatings as members of the women's rights commission really takes the biscuit.”

Upsala Nya Tidning (SE) /

Foreign policy cannot be feminist

Although Sweden's government has refused to confirm or deny that it voted for Saudi Arabia it has stated that such decisions are not taken according to political criteria. For Upsala Nya Tidning the affair highlights the contradictions inherent in Sweden's declared feminist foreign policy:

“Everyone knows that a foreign policy based on realpolitik must be based on compromise and diplomatic codes. Nevertheless one expects more from the self-declared world's first feminist government than business as usual and an allusion to the need for secrecy in foreign policy. ... At the same time the discussion in the past few days has made it clear just how problematic the grand statements about a feminist foreign policy are. Such rhetoric inevitably leads to conflicting goals. Because there will also be situations in the future in which the government is forced to adopt a course that clearly does not further feminist goals.”