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 created on: Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

global, Iran


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I am an Iranian woman, married, 28 years old, I was born during a war of Iran and Iraq which was the longest war of 20th century. My mother remembers the sounds of bombs which made her so scared every day and every hour till she thought that I might be dead inside her body… but no! I was much stronger, but for sure, I cannot find anything more terrible than war in this world…

At age of 18, I started to study Law in Iranian National University and at the age of 22, I left Iran to France to continue my education in International commercial Law. After years, I decided to come back home… by very simple motivation and hope to make my country a better place to live…

Now, I am 28 and working as a Commercial Legal Advisor for different national and international Companies. Also, I am working as a Social Entrepreneur on protection of Iran’s environment by producing “Bio-Cotton Reusable Bags” to decrease the numbers of Plastic/Paper bags in our environment.

In Iran, my generation is the large population of youths who experienced war, religious education system, different consequences of Islamic Revolution, economic crisis, and international sanctions and at the end the “Bitter Taste of Immigration”.

Specially, If you are a woman, in addition to all the mentioned tough experience, you will taste the gender inequality which can manifest itself in different shapes, simply from the fact that parents wanting a baby to be a boy rather than a girl….to different articles of civil code such as being considered to be under the guardianship of the father, husband, or another designated male relative.

Firstly, as a woman and secondly as a person who studied law and working with different people, I try to make a list about general issues in connection with gender inequality in Iran which is obviously based on my personal view and experiences.

1. Age of criminal responsibility:

According new criminal Code of Iran (2013), the criterion for criminal responsibility is 9 lunar years (8 years and 9 months) for girls and 15 lunar years (14 years and 7 months) for boys based on the Shi’ite school of Islam practiced. Although for many years, lawyers have argued that the recognition of criminal responsibility for a girl of 8 years and 9 months old and a boy of 14 years and 7 months old conflicts with the modern needs of society and violates international standards including the Convention on the Rights of Child, the new criminal code still did not change anything.

2. Diya (Blood money):

According to Islamic rules, Iran’s penal code specifies that a woman’s diya (blood money) is not equal to the blood money of a man. Article 379 of the new Penal Code provides:

“When a Muslim woman is murdered, the right to qisas (retaliation) is created; however, if the murderer is a Muslim man, prior to qisas, the heir(s) of the victim [vali-e-dam] should pay the murderer half of the diya (blood money) of a man…”.

3. Husband’s right to kill his wife in flagrant:

Article 630 of the previous Penal Code expressly allowed a husband to kill his wife and her lover, if he caught them in flagrante, (“in blazing offense” in Latin; legal term that indicates a criminal has been caught in the act of committing an offense). However, if he knows that his wife acted under coercion, he may only kill her rapist (Article 630). While in the new Penal Code Article 630 is unchanged, a paragraph has been added to Article 300 which again stresses the exemption of husband from qisas (retaliation) in cases where he kills his wife and her lover in flagrante. In fact, not only has Article 630 not been repealed, the IRI has solidified its approval of this practice.

4. Testimony of women:

Article 198 of the new Penal Code provides:

“The standard of testimony in all crimes is the testimony of two men, except in zina (illicit sexual intercourse), livat (homosexual act between men), tafkhiz (homosexual act between men without penetration), and mosaheqeh (homosexual act between women) which shall be proven by the testimony of four men. Zina may [also] be proven by the testimony of two men and four women, except in cases where zina is punishable by execution or stoning in which then the testimony of at least three men and two women is required. In such cases, if two men and four women give testimony, it is only punishable by flogging. Bodily injuries, which require diya (blood money), may also be proven by the testimony of one man and two women.

5. Compulsory hijab:

After Islamic revolution, Hijab eventually became mandatory and the Penal Code prescribed a severe punishment (seventy lashes) for violating Islamic hijab. Flogging was later replaced by more lenient punishments: including imprisonment and fines.

There is no similar rule for men in the Penal Code and the rule clearly denies women the freedom to dress as they see fit. Moreover, there are no certain rules and measures for these restrictions; instead, its implementation has been left to the discretion of law enforcement forces, which are not limited to official police officers but also include numerous fanatical Basij forces. These forces seize every opportunity to remind women of the implications of violating the hijab. For example, during holy periods, such as Moharram and Ramadan, checks on violations of the hijab increase and special units stop at busy places or patrol the streets in search of violations. The interference with a woman’s appearance, including her hair, makeup and clothing, can sometimes border on the ridiculous.

6. Freedom of Marriage:

The natural guardian (vali-ye-qahri: father or paternal grandfather) has the right to marry for and on behalf of his minor daughter, in compulsory marriage. While in other Islamic schools the natural guardian has the right to marry even for his adult daughter, in Hanafi and Shi’ite law, only minor girls may be contracted in compulsory marriage, and adult women may conclude their own marriage contracts. However, even adult women are not completely free to marry for the first time at their own discretion. There is still a restriction which affects their freedom of marriage as long as they are a “virgin”. It is agreed by all Islamic schools that the marriage of a virgin girl (even after puberty) requires permission of her valiye-qahri (natural guardian). There is no such restriction for boys and they can marry after they reached the age of puberty without the permission of their natural guardians.

7. Polygamy:

Under Iranian law, while women may contract only one marriage at one time, it is a man’s religious and legal right to marry more than one woman. One man can enter into up to four permanent marriages at a time. Also a temporary marriage permits sexual relations outside of formal marriage. Men can more easily claim a temporary marriage because under Iranian laws they may have multiple wives, allowing them to have both a permanent wife and be temporarily married at the same time

I can say in Iran, polygamy is always an obscene act which is never accepted by women, but in reality still there are lots of men who have more than one wife and unfortunatly always there are lots of women who accept to be a second or temporary wife…

8. Right to leave the country

The traditional authority of men (fathers and husbands) over girls and women sometimes takes modern forms. Under Iranian laws, a woman, if married, needs her husband’s consent to obtain a passport and travel outside the country. Husbands can forbid their wives leaving the country by refusing to sign the papers that will allow them to apply for a passport and travel. According to Article 18 of Passport Law 1973:

“A passport shall be issued for the following persons according to this article: … 3-Married women, even if under 18 years old, with the written agreement of their husbands…”

9. Divorce

The general rule in Islamic Shari’a is that divorce is the husband’s unilateral right and he can end his marriage by following a simple procedure: reciting the divorce formula in the presence of two “just” (ādel) witnesses. He does not need any grounds and can divorce his wife without the wife’s consent or even her presence.

10. Employment and right to work

Women are denied from equal rights in specific areas of work under the laws. Under the influence of Islamic Shari’a, ascending to high decision making positions in government is contingent on meeting religious requirements, which, normally, and sometimes exclusively, belong to men. For instance, according to the IRI Constitution, many high ranking positions in the IRI are exclusively tailored for Shi’ite fuqaha (jurists) and mujtahids (Islamic jurists who are capable of an independent derivation of Islamic rules from the primary sources). These include: the Supreme Leader (Article 109), the Head of the Judiciary (Article 157), the six members of the Guardian Council (Article 91), the General Attorney and the Head of the Supreme Court (Article 162). Although there is no requirement of male gender stipulated in the Constitution, this level of religious status has been under the domination of men. No woman has been ever appointed, nor even nominated, for these positions during the 33 years after the Revolution.

In addition to all mentioned legal issues, I can say when I started to work in companies as their legal advisor; I understood that in work environment I can just find few numbers of women who has a position as a top manager or director of department or CEO. Culturally, the men still do not let the women to have high positions even when women are more educated and even there is no legal restriction in this regard.

If I – as an example – want to be in high positions, I should fight with lots of manhood-norms which all the time insist that my real job is having sexual-relation with them, or my job is just obeying them, never they can accept a woman as a strong manager who can make rules…

To sum up, we all know in many parts of the world, women receive less attention and less rights than men and girls in particular often receive very much less support than boys. But “how can we change the gender inequality?” is a question that I always think about.

I believe that neglect of women about their situation and their rights in society is an essential factor of gender inequality. In other side, there is a relation between the neglect of women and lack of their economic empowerment which is directly related to literacy or on the other word: education.

Education is a key that can open lots of locked-doors but for sure it is not enough. As we see, nowadays in Iran we have lots of educated women who suffer inequality and even they do not aware about it. Obviously, having educated women is not enough, also having freedom of thought, freedom of questioning about any kind of beliefs or tradition is another necessary factor for diminishing gender inequality.

As a woman in Iran, I can say hopefully that women in Iran are in a good step to know deeply what they want and what they don’t want, because especially in big cities they are educated and mostly working out of home, what they need is courage of asking and thinking more and more…