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United Arab Emirates gives all its ‘gender balance’ awards to men

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and vice-president and prime minister of the UAE attends the 28th Ordinary Summit of the Arab League at the Dead Sea, Jordan March 29, 2017. (REUTERS/Mohammad Hamed)

The United Arab Emirates vice-president boasted of the country’s “significant progress” on gender equality as he handed out awards for promoting equal opportunity. The only trouble was, all of them went to men.

Social media users were quick to mock after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and vice-president and prime minister of the UAE, tweeted the awards announcement late on Sunday with a series of pictures of men.

“Great to see Dubai promoting and rewarding the promotion of gender balance, but there is something missing in these photos … cannot put my finger on it ….” posted one on Twitter.

“Sorry which genders are they balancing? We see only one,” posted another.

The Dubai government media office and the UAE government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The World Economic Forum ranked the UAE 121st out of 149 countries by gender equality in education, health and participation in politics and the economy in a 2018 report.

Last December, the UAE decided that women should make up half its semi-elected advisory body when it is renewed this year.

This will increase the number of women on the UAE council, which expresses opinion about public issues including bills and government budgets, but has no role in forming or dismissing cabinets or ministers, from nine to 20.

Critics say the UAE’s laws are still highly discriminatory. Marital rape is not a crime while domestic violence is permitted as long as “assault does not exceed the limits of Islamic law”, according to Human Rights Watch.

(Reporting by Heba Kanso @hebakanso; Editing by Claire Cozens, Thomson Reuters Foundation.)

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