Authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been ridiculed after men were awarded every prize for gender balance.
The government was mocked after pictures were posted on the Twitter account of the vice-president of the UAE, where he was seen handing out prizes to the winners of the Gender Balance Index 2018 over the weekend.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the ruler of Dubai, congratulated the recipients of best personality supporting gender balance, best federal authority supporting gender balance and best gender balance initiative.
He insisted women were “central to shaping the future of the country”.
Critics drew attention to the absurdity of the gender balance awards – which celebrate efforts to reduce the gender gap within the federal government and to promote equal opportunities – solely being dished out to male recipients.
A tweet which celebrated the awards sparked derision on the social media site.
“Wow really nailed the diversity there. One of those dudes was wearing grey,” said one Twitter user.
“This has to be a joke,” added another.
“You have achieved excellent balance of men with dark facial hair, and men with light facial hair. My congratulations,” said another.
The UAE’s Gender Balance Index awards acknowledge progress made in government departments over the last year in meeting female participation goals established by the government in 2015.
“We are proud of the success of Emirati women and their role is central to shaping the future of the country. Gender balance has become a pillar in our government institutions,” a tweet from the official Dubai media office said.
A later tweet by the Government of Dubai Media Office included a photo showing five women standing beside Sheikh Mohammed and the male recipients, but it did not identify them.
A statement by the official Dubai Media Office quoted Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, president of the UAE Gender Balance Council, as saying it had achieved a goal set in 2015 to reduce the gender gap across all sectors of government.
The UAE cabinet approved legislation to ensure equal pay for women back in April.
But last month the country was ranked 121st out of 149 countries overall in the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap Report and 134th in terms of economic participation and opportunity.
The report said there had been a reduction in the gap with regard to legislators, senior officials and managers, counterbalanced by an expanding overall wage gap.
But rights organisations say gender discrimination remains a deeply ingrained problem across the UAE.
UAE law allows domestic violence as long as the assault does not exceed the limits set by Islamic law, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
HRW also highlighted the fact that discrimination on the basis of sex and gender was not included in the definition of discrimination in the UAE’s 2015 anti-discrimination law.
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