Sunday, August 16, 2009

Women's Rights in Iran - Introduction

How is the situation of women’s rights in Iran? What are their rights and hinders? Is there any progress in the Iranian women’s movement? If so, how law reacts to it? In the answer to these questions, a blurred picture from Iran is usually seen. Some imagine Iran as a country nearly close to Afghanistan in Taliban regime; harsh in Islamic law.[1] Probably, they believe that the main issue for women in Iran is dress code (hijab); i.e. the obligatory clothing for women there.[2]
But, in 2003, a new image of Iranian women was broadcasted in the world. Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer, former judge, and social activist was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in support of democracy and human rights.[3] It has initiated a question: why a woman from Iran? What is happening there so important that an Iranian woman was selected for the Prize?
In fact, I started this paper on 2004; however, the pace of the changes is much faster than what I could expect. The women movement has proceeded gradually, but firmly. One of the turning points in women movement in Iran is the “Campaign for One Million Signatures to Change the discriminatory Laws against Women”.[4] The Campaign has been initiated in June 2006 and it is still going on. Also, the Campaigns “for Stopping Stoning as a Punishment forever”[5], “Open Stadiums to Women Audiences”[6], and “Objection against Illegal Pressures over Activists in Women Movement”[7] are other campaigns held and supported by women in Iran. Meanwhile, several social activist women were arrested; the last ones are: Saaghi Laghaee, Nassrin Afzali, Shahla Entessari, Naahid Entessari, Shaadi Sadr, Mahboobeh Abaas Gholizaadeh, Bahaareh Hedaayat, Delaaraam Ali, Jelveh Javaaheri, Maryam Hussein Khaani, etc.
On the other hand, we are hearing about the same retribution for men and women’s death (Dieh); something which was like a taboo four years ago. Even in the 6th Parliament after the Revolution, in which reformists and feminists MPs had majority, they could not address the issue because of high sensitivities among religious leaders in Iran. Now even religious leaders, like Aayat-o-llah Saane’ei[8], political and religious characters, like Aayat-o-llah Hashemi Rafsanjani[9], religious experts close to the conservatives, like [10]Gharavian openly defend equal Dieh for men and women. Rafsanjani raised the equality of Dieh for men and women based on women presence in economic activities and their role in producing wealth in a society.[11] This argument shows how social changes may and will affect on the interpretations of Islam.
This article tries to explain the women’s status in Iran. The first part of the article preliminary discusses on the Islamic law as the major basis for Iranian law. Then, I try to show the women’s situation in Iran based on their education, employment, and political rights. Afterward, I review the women’s rights in politics, family, and also in criminal law to show how the Iranian legal system deals with women. My goal is to enlighten some gloomy aspects of the women’s rights in Iran.
[1] Monica M. Ramirez, Islam, Women, and Gender Justice, 39 STAN. J. INT’L L.167 (2003).
[2] Alison E. Graves, Women in Iran: Obstacles to Human Rights and Possible Solutions, 5 AM. U. J. GENDER & L. 57, 57-58 (1996). She started his article with a story that: “A fifty-five-year-old woman is walking home, her arms full of groceries. It is hot, and the woman is clearly struggling to hold the groceries and maintain her veil, or chador, at the same time. Before she can put it back into place, the chador slips back and a single lock of hair appears on the woman's forehead. Immediately, she is arrested and imprisoned. For her "crime" she receives eighty lashes with a whip. This disturbing story occurs with shocking frequency in modern-day Iran.” She cited the story from other sources. The law already permits 74 lashes for women who appear in public places without hijab, Islamic clothing. See Article 102 (Note) of the Islamic Punishment Act enacted in 1983 (Iranian Majlis Research Center CD-ROM: Lowh-E- Ghanoon 2nd edition [hereinafter Lowh-E-Ghanoon]). That punishment has changed since that article was written. Instead of lashes, a woman who appears in public without hijab is subject to detention from 10 days to 2 months or fifty thousand to five hundred thousand Rials as fine since 1996. See Article 638 of the Islamic Punishment Act enacted 1996 (Lowh-E- Ghanoon).
[3] N. Patrick Flanagan III, The Nobel Peace Prize and the Lawyer’s Duty, 11 Nevada Lawyer 6 (2003).
[4] See
[5] See
[6] See
[7] See
[8] See
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.

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