The Women’s Rights Movement in Iran

The Women’s Rights Movement in Iran

Emily Wallace, Prospect Staff Writer

The women’s rights journey in Iran has a long and complex history that is still ongoing. Ever since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, resulting in the end of the monarchy and the establishment of an Islamic republic, women’s rights have been restricted with several corresponding laws established, for example, the introduction of mandatory veiling and a public dress code for women. Despite the significant progress that has been made recently, women in Iran still continue to face a range of challenges and injustices. 

In recent years, there have been essential legal reforms aimed at improving women’s rights in Iran; In 2019 a new law was introduced that granted women greater protections against domestic violence. This law is a significant step forward as beforehand, domestic violence had been largely ignored by the legal system. However, even with this law established, women in Iran still face discrimination in a range of legal areas like divorce, child custody, and inheritance. Most of these discriminatory laws are rooted in traditional interpretations of Islamic law, therefore used to justify gender-based discrimination.

Despite the fact that such a law was implemented, Iran does not have policies in place to prevent abuse, protect women, and prosecute domestic violence. It has caused  increasing reports of femicides as well as women risking their lives to escape abuse. In most femicide cases, prosecutors and judges don’t press for appropriate penalties. 

Marriage inequalities have been a raging issue in Iranian women’s lives. This affects the rules on marriage, which are very discriminatory.  For example, a man is able to marry up to four women at a time, but women can only marry one husband. A woman needs a male guardian’s consent from their father or paternal grandfather in order to marry. The Sharia-based Iranian law further states that the legal age for marriage is 13 for girls whereas 15 for boys. Marriages can also be arranged at a younger age with the consent of fathers and permission from court judges, making child marriage more socially acceptable. Under the Civil Code, the husband has the privilege to choose where they live and stop his wife from certain jobs, using “family values” as  justification. Under the ‘passports law,’ a woman is required to have her husband’s permission to get a passport and travel outside the country.  These laws ensured husbands significant control over their wives lives. 

In addition, with the ban on abortion in Iran, women are forced to go underground in frequently unsanitary centers and conditions to terminate their pregnancies. This has resulted in the death of several women, and for many women to undergo lifetime complications.

Furthermore, women in Iran are still subjected to the country’s strict dress codes that require them to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothes in public. This is enforced by the country’s so-called ‘morality police.’ Women that don’t adhere to these dress codes can be fined or even arrested. Even with the protests and campaigns by women’s rights activists, these laws and dress codes remain in place, and unfortunately, women continue to be penalized for violating them.

Cultural change is also an important aspect of the women’s rights movement in Iran. In recent times, there has been a growing awareness of women’s rights issues in Iranian society. Many women are speaking out about their experiences of discrimination and inequality with activists utilizing social media platforms to raise awareness of issues affecting women in Iran, and to connect with other activists around the world.

A visual sign of this cultural change has been the growing number of women’s rights activists in Iran. They strive to raise awareness of women’s rights issues and push for greater gender equality in all parts of society. Women’s rights activists in Iran have organized protests, rallies, and marches, demanding that the government and society at large recognize and respect women’s rights. Nevertheless, these protests are often met with violence and repression from the authorities. For example, Iranian authorities have imprisoned the leaders of the “One Million signatures” campaign, a pivotal women’s rights campaign started in 2006 which worked to get a million signatures from Iranians supporting gender equality.

Last of all, political activism is also a crucial aspect of the women’s rights movement in Iran. Women within the country have long been active in the political sphere, but in recent years they have played an increasingly important role in shaping the country’s political landscape. Women’s rights activists have been pushing for more female representation in political positions while also advocating for the inclusion of women’s rights issues in political agendas.

The most notable example of this was the 2019 parliamentary elections, in which a record number of women were elected to the Iranian parliament. This was a huge milestone for the country’s women’s rights movement as it showed that women were able to play a key role in shaping the country’s political future. Although, even with such progress, women in Iran still undergo significant barriers to their political participation, and their voices are frequently marginalized or ignored.

In conclusion, the women’s rights movement in Iran is a heavily complex and multifaceted movement that aims to make important changes in a range of areas. Although there is still much to be done, legal reforms, cultural changes, and political activism occurring, gives reason that women in Iran will one day experience equal rights and opportunities deserved. This movement in Iran is a testament to all the resilience and strength of Iranian women who are fighting each day for a more just and equitable society for themselves and future generations.