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While Saudi Arabia carries out violence against women, UN rapporteur calls for protection of female journalists and an end to violence

Dubravka Šimonovic

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The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Dubravka Šimonovic, stated that female journalists face special dangers while doing their jobs and called on governments to enact additional protections for them. This comes amidst the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s numerous violations against female writers and journalists, with ESOHR noting the arrest of at least four of them, in addition to the harassment they experience outside prisons.

In a plea directed at member states of the Human Rights Council in Geneva during the discussion of her report at the 44th session, the Special Rapporteur said it is necessary to take immediate steps to combat “the emerging fundamentalist discourse and the global backlash against women’s rights.”

While highlighting the heightened threats of violence against women during the Coronavirus crisis, Šimonovic urged all countries to support the UN’s strategy to combat and prevent this type of gender-based aggression.

In her message, she affirmed that “women have a right to be safe in their own homes,” and that any measures to combat the pandemic must respect human rights and take into consideration the needs of women.

The UN Special Rapporteur noted, that since 1992, approximately 96 female journalists have been killed while doing their jobs. She explained that, although more male journalists die each year, female journalists are especially vulnerable to “sexual assault and rape.”

Šimonovic, herself a journalist, stated that “[w]omen journalists have become increasingly targeted as visible and outspoken representatives of women’s rights.”

Despite some progress, the independent UN rapporteur declared there remains much to do to end the frightening increases in gender-based violence against women throughout the world, including female journalists.

Šimonovic reiterated her call for all countries to “support theelaboration of a UN system-wide coordinated approach or strategy to combat and prevent violence against women and a global action plan on violence against women.”

Although Saudi Arabia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, its practices do not reflect its commitments. Saudi Arabia arrested human rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul after her participation in the committee’s work,where she informed it of the human rights situation for women in her country.

Furthermore, while Saudi Arabia discusses the enactment of regulations and laws to protect women from violence, the male guardianship system remains in place in some areas, which contributes to the continued exposure of women to violence. This is in addition to the government’s own practices against women in prison in the form of torture and ill treatment.

ESOHR affirms that women in Saudi Arabia, especially human rights advocates, writers, and journalists, are subject to various forms of official and social violence. Any official claims of reform, especially in the field of women’s rights, that do not include releasing female prisoners, holding torturers accountable, and ensuring a secure work environment for women, are not to be believed.

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