US President Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, has praised Saudi Arabia’s “empowerment of women,” glossing over the kingdom’s notoriously unfair treatment of them.
Melania, who accompanies Trump on his maiden foreign trip to Saudi Arabia, made the remarks while visiting an all-female General Electric service center in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Sunday.
“It is about finding the balance,” she told the women working at the factory.
“Enjoyed talking to the incredible women working hard at the service center. Great strides being made towards the empowerment of women,” she tweeted later on.
America’s first lady made the remarks notwithstanding the fact that Saudi Arabia has long been known as the world's most gender-segregated nation.
In 2016, Saudi Arabia was ranked 141 out of 144 on the Global Gender Gap Index.
In recent years, the Al Saud regime has come under intense pressure by rights groups for mistreating women.
Saudi women must live under the supervision of a male guardian and cannot travel, study and get a number of health treatments without their permission. They were also banned from voting until 2015, when they were allowed to vote in local elections.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving. The ban stems from a religious fatwa imposed by Wahhabi clerics. If women get behind the wheel in the kingdom, they may be arrested, sent to court and even flogged.
In January, Philip Alston, a UN Special Rapporteur on human rights, blasted Riyadh’s treatment of women, saying the driving ban and the guardianship limitations had to be lifted.
Ironically, Saudi Arabia was one of the 13 countries that were elected by the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to the Commission on the Status of Women in late April.
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