[Updated 17/06] PARIS – This Thursday, June 16, the United Nations Human Rights Council met in Geneva, Switzerland for two meetings during an all-day session on women’s rights.
The annual meeting, which has produced key documents and resolutions in the past, was visited by women’s rights ambassadors, business leaders, and politicians.
In the event’s opening statements, Baroness Anelay, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK, said that “the strongest, safest, and most prosperous societies” are those in which women are able to participate fully, a sentiment echoed by many activists and social scientists.
She continued to outline the objectives of the meeting, including developing objectives to reduce sexual violence, increase workplace and social equality between men and women, and increasing female personal autonomy.
The issue of women’s rights is particularly relevant in the Middle East and North Africa, where repression of women is high relative to Europe and North America. The United Nations views progress of women’s rights is an important benchmark for social development, and the meeting in Geneva is one of its major yearly events regarding women’s rights.
Farideh Karimi, president of the Association internationale pour les droits des femmes (WHRIA) and an Iranian citizen, spoke with us regarding U.N. Women’s annual meeting, specifically about women’s rights in Iran.
“As a Muslim woman I would like to emphasize that one of the main challenges for women is religious fundamentalism, which began when Khomeini took power in 1979. Since this period there has been a global threat to women in all Islamic countries.”
“This way of thinking is a main factor preventing women’s progress, and there is no expectation for any real change until there is no longer a fundamentalist regime in Iran with Velayat- e- fagih ideology”.
Previous key achievements of the annual meeting include the development of a 2007 resolution to further integrate women’s rights into U.N. member state objectives, and a 2014 resolution to create a multi-state project to promote women’s rights.
There is a long history of global conferences for women within the U.N. The organization’s support for women was established in its charter, and it has consistently emphasized the cultivation of women’s rights on the basis of sexual equality.
In 1995, the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China asserted that women’s rights are human rights and developed actionable goals to promote equality for women. Women’s rights figured importantly in the drafting of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. In 2010, the four previous U.N. women’s rights groups merged into one, the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, or UN Women.
The group has devoted particular attention to the issue of sexual equality in the Middle East.