New York: India along with 40 other countries have been elected to the board of the new UN agency to promote equality for women but Iran lost its bid due to strong opposition from the United States and human rights groups.
UN Women is the amalgamation of different United Nations bodies focused on women. It was created this year to look exclusively at gender equality and empowerment of women. The 41-member executive board also includes United States and Britain, which won seats in the donor nations category.
In the wake of intense opposition by human rights organisations and several other Western countries Iran lost its bid to East Timor, a late entrant to the contest, in a vote at the UN General Assembly.
Iran was initially running uncontested for 10 Asian seats but then East Timor decided to join in the fray, which made the election competitive and Iran lost.
Iran received just 19 votes and East Timor got 36 from the 54 nations, which constitute the UN Economic and Social Council that voted.
Saudi Arabia, whose candidacy was also criticised, got an automatic seat.
"The membership of countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia is like a joke," said Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, ahead of the elections, noting that Saudi Arabia treated women even worse than Iran.
Other controversial countries to be elected were Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is described as the rape capital of the world.
Both countries ran uncontested as did Saudi Arabia.
Responding to questions about Saudi Arabia`s elections, Susan Rice, US Ambassador to UN, said, "I am not going to deny that there were several countries that are going to join the board of UN Women that have less than stellar records on women`s rights, and indeed human rights."
After the elections, Rice noted that the US, which has been especially opposed to Iran`s election, encouraged East Timor to run.
"We`ve made no secret of our concern that Iran joining the board of UN women would have been a inauspicious start to that board," Rice told journalists.
In recent months, Iran has come under criticism for the decision of stoning to death Sakineh Mohammad Ashtiani who had been accused of adultery.
Following an international outcry, the sentence has been reversed and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied that Ashtiani had received such a sentence.
Last week, however, reports emerged that Ashitani may still be executed but the Iranian authorities have not conclusively decided on her fate.