May 8, 2017
Hindus are urging the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, whose 41st session is meeting in Krakow (Poland) on July 2-12, not to endorse Okinoshima Island of Japan for the World Heritage Site status, unless women are also permitted on this Island.
“Okinoshima Island and Related Sites in Munakata Region”, where the women are not allowed to set foot and which is on the Tentative List under Japan in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention since 2009, would reportedly be on the agenda of this Committee session for nomination to World Heritage List.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, urged Committee Chairperson Jacek Purchla (Poland); Rapporteur Muhammad Juma (Tanzania); Vice-Chairpersons Angola, Kuwait, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Korea; and the rest 14 States Parties to either not include Okinoshima Island on the agenda or to reject it during the meeting; unless Japan ensured that women would be permitted in the same status as men on this Island.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stated that women deserved equal rights and opportunities and this gender discrimination at the Island needed to end right now as it was highly inappropriate and out-of-line.
Moreover; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), where “Gender Equality” is one of the two “Global Priorities”, should not be in business of rewarding the monuments/sites which refused to treat women with equality and respect they deserved; Rajan Zed noted.
UNESCO, which “considers gender equality as a fundamental human right, a building block for social justice and an economic necessity”, should be embarrassed of its actions of placing this Island even on its Tentative List of heritage sites. It seemed that UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and Executive Board Chairperson Michael Worbs needed to re-read and re-grasp the priorities and goals of the organization, Zed indicated.
Rajan Zed, quoting scriptures, explained that ancient Manusmriti said: “Where women are revered, there the gods are pleased; where they are not, no rite will yield any fruit.”
Men and women were equal in the eyes of God; Zed said, and urged His Holiness Pope Francis and other world religious leaders to strongly speak on this gender equality issue. How could the “men-only” island be on the UNESCO World Heritage List? Zed wondered.
The Committee has the final say on whether a property is inscribed on the World Heritage List. The 21 States Parties of the current World Heritage Committee are: Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.
A description of Okinoshima Island on UNESCO website includes: “where from the fourth to the tenth centuries national religious rituals were conducted to supplicate the gods” and “where gods descended to live in this world”. A “Nomination Dossier” was prepared by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs for this site in January 2016.