UN Authority Figures

UN Economic and Social Council: Saudi Arabia

A woman enters a taxi in Saudi Arabia. Saudi women are prohibited from driving. (BBC, January 22, 2008)

Mission of the Economic and Social Council: "The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) serves as the central forum for discussing international economic and social issues...It is responsible for: promoting higher standards of living, full employment, and economic and social progress; identifying solutions to international economic, social and health problems; facilitating international cultural and educational cooperation; and encouraging universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms." (ECOSOC web-site, "Information about the Council")

Term of office: 2009-2011

Saudi Arabia's Record on "social progress" and "encouraging universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms":
"[T]he following significant human rights problems were reported:...judicially sanctioned corporal punishment; impunity, particularly on the part of the religious police; denial of public trials and lack of due process in the judicial system; political prisoners; incommunicado detention...In a Shari'a court, the testimony of one man equals that of two women...Religious police enforcement of strict standards of social behavior included...insisting upon compliance with strict norms of public dress, and dispersing gatherings of women in public places designated for men, as well as preventing unaccompanied men from entering public places designated for families. Religious police frequently reproached both citizen and foreign women for failure to observe strict dress codes and arrested men and women found together who were not married or closely related...[I]ndividuals were not permitted to criticize the royal family publicly. The government actively impeded criticism and monitored citizens' political activity...The government restricted access to the Internet, and the Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC) reportedly monitors e mail and Internet chat rooms...There is no legal recognition or protection of religious freedom, and it was severely restricted in practice. The government limited the practice of all but the officially sanctioned version of Islam...prohibiting the public practice of, profession of, or possession of literature and symbols relating to other religions...Freedom of movement was restricted...[A]ll women in the country were prohibited from driving...The prevailing interpretation of Shari'a institutionalizes discrimination based on gender, witnessed in application of inheritance and divorce laws and legal process, as well as in restricted educational and socioeconomic opportunities for women...The majority of rape cases are not reported because victims face societal reprisal, often being deemed unfit for marriage or even punished as a result of having been raped. There were no laws specifically outlawing domestic violence, and the number of cases was difficult to determine due to taboos about public reporting... Trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation was reported...Under Shari'a as interpreted in the country, sexual activity between two persons of the same gender is punishable by death or flogging...Despite revisions to elementary and secondary textbooks, the books still retained some language that was intolerant of other religious traditions, especially Jewish, Christian, and Shia beliefs...The labor code does not allow workers to form and join independent unions of their choice...[M]any foreign workers were...subjected to abusive conditions that constituted involuntary servitude or forced labor, including nonpayment of wages for months and years, debt bondage, confinement, confiscation of travel and identity documents, long hours without days off, contract switching, intimidation, and physical abuse. Child labor occurred in the country..." (US State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2008, Saudi Arabia)