Although International Women’s Day is not until March, a cross part of British MPs highlighted the systematic discrimination and marginalization of women in Iran at a conference in the House of Commons on February 28.
Iran ranks among the worst countries in the world when it comes to women’s rights. It remains in the bottom 5th percentile of 142 countries in overall equality for women. According to the FCO Human Rights Priority Country update report, which was published on February 8, “The human rights situation in Iran remains deeply worrying…[and] women do not enjoy the same rights and privileges as men in Iran and continue to face discrimination.”
In large part, the laws of the country reduce women and girls to the status of second class citizens, thus denying them the most basic and fundamental rights, including the freedom to choose their own clothing. There have been controversies as well over European and U.S. diplomats wearing the hijab during state visits.
“By actually complying with the directives of the Islamic Republic, Western women legitimize the compulsory hijab law,” said Iranian activist Masih Alinejad, when it came up during the Swedish delegation’s visit to Iran earlier this year. “This is a discriminatory law and it’s not an internal matter when the Islamic Republic forces all non-Iranian women to wear hijab as well.”
Over 70 women have been executed since Rouhani took office and there are three confirmed cases of women being sentenced to death by stoning.
“The Prime Minister was right to warn about Iran’s malign influence in the region. She should equally stand up for women’s rights in Iran, where the theocracy’s institutionalized misogyny hampers millions of women from shaping the future of their country for the better,” said Steve McCabe, the Labour MP for Birmingham, Selly Oak.
Linda Lee, former President of the Law Society of England and Wales and who served as a chair to the conference, highlighted the plight of women activists in Iran. “These prisoners of conscience are being punished with long-term prison sentences either for their activities against capital punishment or for demanding those responsible for the mass killings during the 80s to be held accountable, including the known perpetrators of the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988,” said Lee.