U.N. Rights Expert Will Examine Violence Against Women in Saudi Arabia

A U.N. rights expert will travel to Saudi Arabia next month to gather information about violence against women in the country, officials said Monday.

Yakin Erturk, the U.N. special investigator for violence against women, will visit the kingdom from Feb. 4-13 and meet with government and civil society representatives in Riyadh, Jeddah and Damam, according to a statement by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Last month, Saudi's King Abdullah pardoned a rape victim who had been sentenced to lashes and jail time for being in a car with a man who was not her relative. The case sparked international criticism over the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, where strict interpretation of Islamic law gives men and women different rights with respect to education, marriage and participation in public life.

Earlier this month, Saudi officials told the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women that the kingdom would likely lift the ban on women driving in the near future and was taking measures to address the issue of domestic violence.

A report last year by New York-based Human Rights Watch found many female foreign workers in Saudi Arabia are physically abused by their employers.