Saudi Arabia: UN Special Rapporteur to visit the kingdom
A source told Arab News that the team would divide their time between meeting government officials and independent human rights activists. The team is scheduled to meet representatives from the government-run Human Rights Commission (HRC) and officials from the Social Affairs Ministry.
The UN press release stated that the rapporteur would discuss different types of violence against women in Saudi Arabia as well as the initiatives undertaken by the Kingdom to address these problems.
Based on the information obtained during the visit, Ertürk will present a succinct brief to the seventh session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. She will also present a complete report containing her findings and recommendations to a Human Rights Council session later.
UN special rapporteurs are independent experts elected by the United Nations Human Rights Council and are tasked with investigating special themes, such as violence against women, or countries affected by human rights crises, such as Palestine.
The special rapporteurs who visit countries need official permission, and are involved in fact finding missions and discussions with foreign governments. The first UN special rapporteur to visit the Kingdom was Param Cumaraswamy, who visited in 2002. Cumaraswamy was tasked with investigating the independence of judges and lawyers.
From 2004 to 2006, there were 1,429 cases of domestic violence with women being the majority of victims, According to the National Society of Human Rights. Physical and psychological abuse represents 36.5 percent of these cases.
Samira Al-Ghamdi, a Jeddah-based psychologist and founding member of the Society for Protecting the Family, said there are multiple factors behind violence against women in Saudi Arabia. She added that the main problem is that the rights of women are unclearly stated by the government.
“Our religion is very clear about women’s rights in Islam but its to do with our false interpretation of Islam,” she said.
Al-Ghamdi said that there is a lot of talk nowadays about violence against women and that the majority of it is “much ado about nothing.” She added that there is no clear system to deal with domestic violence.
“There is no certain efficient mechanism yet. All that is being done now is merely individual efforts by the NSHR or the HRC or a committee here and there. We need a national strategic plan with clear goals to achieve in three to 10 years,” she added.
Ertürk’s visit takes place after the Saudi government was questioned on Jan. 17 by a UN organization, entitled Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW questioned the Kingdom about the first Saudi report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
By: Ebtihal Mubarak
30 January 2008
Source: Arab News
Saudi Arabia should end the practice of polygamy because it runs counter to the principle of equality between the sexes, a U.N. committee on women's rights said Friday.
The nonbinding recommendation was made in a nine-page report by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which last month invited Saudi officials to discuss the kingdom's compliance with a U.N. charter on women's rights that the country ratified in 2000.
The committee also said the kingdom should introduce a minimum age of marriage, end the custom of male guardianship for women and take steps to eliminate violence against females.
The situation of women in Saudi Arabia came under renewed international scrutiny last year when a rape victim was sentenced to lashes and jail time for being in a car with a man who was not her relative. The woman was later pardoned by Saudi's King Abdullah.
Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islamic law gives men and women different rights with respect to education, marriage and participation in public life.
Not all of the restrictions are based on formal laws, but customs such as the prohibition on women driving are nevertheless widespread for cultural reasons.
Saudi officials told the committee last month that the kingdom was taking measures to address numerous issues, from domestic violence to promoting education and job opportunities for women.
But the officials said the country would not be able to adhere to a number of aspects of the U.N. charter because they run contrary to Islamic Sharia law, which is the basis of all legislation in the country.
Under Sharia law, men are permitted to have up to four wives, and gay relationships are forbidden.
The U.N. panel said Saudi Arabia should clarify whether it accepts that international law takes precedence over domestic legislation, and ensure that the protection of women is firmly enshrined in the country's constitution and everyday court decisions.
The U.N. special investigator for violence against women, Yakin Erturk, is due to visit the kingdom from Feb. 4-13 to gather information about violence against women in the country.
1 February 2008
Source: The Associated Press