THE election of Iran to the UN committee on women’s rights has been called “surreal” and “morally reprehensible” by activists due to its discriminatory laws against women.

The regime, which does not allow women to travel outside the country or obtain a passport without their husband’s permission, was appointed for a four-year term on the UN Commission in a secret ballot last Tuesday.

The commission describes itself as the “principle global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women”.

It comes as British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to a further year in prison and a one-year travel ban after being found guilty of propaganda against the Iranian regime.

The vote by the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has sparked outrage among human rights activists – with calls for the countries involved, including the UK, to reveal how they voted.

Iran won 43 votes in the anonymous ballot at the UN’s 54-nation Ecosoc, the smallest number of votes of those newly elected to sit on the panel from next year.

Lebanon and Pakistan were appointed, while China and Japan are already commission members.

UN Watch reported that this means at least four of the 15 EU and Western Group democracies who sit on the Ecosoc voted for Iran.

The 15 Western countries on the council include the UK, Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Portugal, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the United States.

There are now outraged calls for the countries involved to reveal how they voted as activists hit out at the appointment.

Iranian women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad took to Twitter to share her outrage.

She said: “This is surreal. A regime that treats women as second-class citizens, jails them for not wearing the compulsory hijab, bans them from singing, bars them from stadiums and doesn’t let them travel abroad without the permission of their husbands gets elected to the UN’s top women’s rights body.”

Alinejad added: “Women of my country Iran are disappointed at the UN.

“Don’t legitimise a misogynist regime.”

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva based human rights group, said: “Electing the Islamic Republic of Iran to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief.

“It’s absurd – and morally reprehensible. This is a black day for women’s rights, and for all human rights.”

The Association of Iranian Women in France and their counterparts in Italy and Sweden said in a statement: “We consider the election of the extremely misogynistic regime of Iran as an insult to all Iranian women, the main victims of this regime during the last four decades.

“We call on governments, institutions and associations to condemn this decision.”

It comes as Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was first jailed in Tehran in 2016, had her jail sentence extended by a year and a ban put in place to stop her from leaving the country for a year after.

She has always denied the spying charges levelled against her, and plans to appeal against her sentence.

PM Boris Johnson said the UK would “redouble” efforts to free her.

Confirming the latest sentence, her husband Richard Ratcliffe told the BBC that the court’s decision was a bad sign and “clearly a negotiating tactic” by Iranian authorities – who are in the middle of discussions over the country’s nuclear activities.

Last year Zaghari-Ratcliffe was moved from prison due to the coronavirus pandemic and held under house arrest in Tehran until March, when her ankle tag was removed.