Posts

Moynihan’s Law and the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women

You'll have by now heard that at its 51st session on March 9, the UN Commission on the Status of Women condemned exactly one state for human rights abuses: Israel. Anne Bayefsky at NRO mordantly observes: The same week the … Read More

By / March 21, 2007

You'll have by now heard that at its 51st session on March 9, the UN Commission on the Status of Women condemned exactly one state for human rights abuses: Israel.

Anne Bayefsky at NRO mordantly observes:

The same week the commission focused specifically only on the state of Israel, 33 Muslim women engaging in peaceful protest outside a courthouse in Tehran were abruptly arrested on charges of “endangering national security.” Their goal? To put an end to polygamy and to child-custody laws that strip mothers in Iran of the right to raise and protect their own children. On March 8 — International Women’s Day — 700 women’s-rights activists again gathered in front of the parliament building in Tehran, demanding fair trials for the women jailed a few days earlier. Iranian security forces and ranks of baton-wielding police once more descended on the women, driving them back with physical force, verbal obscenities, and threats of more to come. In Saudi Arabia, during the first week of March, a 19-year-old girl who was kidnapped at knifepoint, gang-raped, and then beaten by her brother for having “allowed” herself to become the victim of a rape has been sentenced to 90 lashes. Her crime? Meeting a young man who was not a family member. Indeed, one of her judges told this young woman she was lucky to have not gotten jail time.

And Gene at Harry's Place strikes the same chord:

Number of resolutions criticizing Israel (pdf) for its treatment of Palestinian women approved by the UN Commission on the Status of Women at its 51st session: 1

Number of resolutions criticizing the Palestinian Authority for the situation of Palestinian women: 0

Number of resolutions criticizing Iran for beating and imprisoning women's rights demonstrators or approving the stoning to death of alleged female adulterers: 0

Number of resolutions criticizing Saudi Arabia for prohibiting women from driving, traveling unaccompanied by male relatives or voting in municipal elections: 0

Number of resolutions criticizing Sudan for supporting the Janjaweed militia, which engages in mass rape of women in Darfur: 0

Number of resolutions criticizing any country other than Israel for anything: 0

Number of countries with worse women's rights records than Israel: Substantially >0

The resolution singling out Israel was approved by a vote of 40 to 2. The US and Canada opposed it.

All of which can be summed up by the late, great Patrick Moynihan's famous law: Complaints about human rights violations bear an inverse proportion to the actual violations committed.

In open societies like those of the United States and Israel, scrutiny of inexcusable acts is as easy as breathing. We hear about sweat shop labor conditions, instances of rape, institutional racism, torture, and murder all the time in these countries. But in countries where information is the exclusive commodity of the state — North Korea, prewar Iraq, Hamas-controlled Palestine — nary a peep is heard about how awful are day-to-day conditions for the entire populace, let alone one demographic of it. Palestine is now ruled by a party that may be split into a "pragmatic" foreign policy wing and a messianic domestic-military one, but that party's founding charter still defines women as chattel. Why the UN's unwillingness to take such a statement of purpose seriously?

What would be the reaction to, say, a policeman who ignored somebody with an expressed interest in commiting murder in favor of shadowing an outwardly ethical person who might one day succumb to the act himself? How long would he patrol the streets, do you think?

Yet another reason to rethink the clever idea that came together at Dumbarton Oaks.

Tagged with: