Friday, May 07, 2010

Civilisation resumes slow crumblification

It’s certainly not a laughing matter, but you’ve gotta laugh, otherwise you can only weep at the very proposition: Iran has been elected unopposed to a seat on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

That’s the same Iran which sanctions the stonings, lashings and hangings of women for so-called lapses of ‘modesty’ and ‘morals’.

No gesture of disapproval came during an acclamation vote affirming the Islamic nation's appointment to the 45-nation group... Iran was one of only two nations that put forward candidates to fill two empty seats for the Asian bloc for the 2011-2015 period during a round of “elections” in which no real votes were cast. The other nation was Thailand.

Thus, the expression I used above — ‘elected unopposed’ — should be regarded with significant qualification. Indeed, taking a wider view, Iran’s ‘procedural’ success is not a matter of such earth-shattering urgency as accorded by the UN’s usual detractors, since “Iran has served on the [CSW] for successive terms since 1990.” And among the current CSW membership are countries such as Eritrea, another serial offender against women’s rights.

The US state department takes a (shall we say) philosophical, longer-term view of the problem. The Islamic Republic’s seat on the CSW is “something of a booby prize for Iran,” following the US’s successful lobbying against Iran’s bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

The United States worked with a broad range of other countries “to make it clear to Iran" that it was not going to win a seat on the Human Rights Council.”

“We're not going to stand up and cheer [at Iran’s CSW membership],” [an anonymous high-ranking official] said. “By the same token, that is less onerous than the Human Rights Council because women in Iran, relative to other countries in the region, actually have greater rights.”

“You don't have women placed in head-to-toe burkas in that country,” the official said. “You have women elected to the legislature in the country... I’m not saying we can take Iran and compare them to the human rights record of any country in the developed world. But in that region, women in Iran have a greater opportunity for education, for business and to participate in politics.”

Well, we might say, that’s okay then ... er ... but why could not the US have “worked with a broad range of other countries” to block Iran from the CSW as well? Because the very idea of a regime such as Iran sitting on a body such as the CSW does strike at one’s sense of the fitness of things.

Australia was an inaugural member in 1947 of the CSW but, with the rest of the Western bloc, seems to have somewhat dropped the ball on defending women’s rights internationally.

Only last month the Attorney-General Robert McLelland launched the Rudd Government’s vaunted Human Rights Framework, which as a ‘key principle’ aims at “enhancing our domestic and international engagement on human rights issues.”

So then, let the international engagement begin, commencing with giving Iran and other serial offenders some curry on their human rights pretensions, including particularly in relation to women’s rights.

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