International Women’s Day – UN Special Rapporteur report on Iranian’s Women’s Rights

Iran is drawing international attention for its human rights violations, but as International Women’s Day this week, attention is being given to the lack of rights for women in Iran. The Iranian government accepted 27 of 60 recommendations regarding the rights of women in its 2014 UPR review. These included recommendations regarding gender discrimination, early marriage, access to health and education, political and economic participation, and domestic violence.

However, the government also rejected recommendations aimed at ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and girls, as well as equal treatment under the law.

“No progress has been made towards the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the elimination of legal provisions, which discriminate [against] women in various fields,” said the Special Rapporteur in her report.

One area of concern is the controversial “Comprehensive Population and Family Excellence Plan”, which aims to “increase the pregnancy rate to 2.5 % of the quantitative population growth until the year 2025 and requires public and private sector employers to give hiring preference to men compared to women and prohibits hiring ‘single individuals’ to faculty positions in all public and private education and research institutions.” Thus, women would be limited in their ability to enter and stay in the workforce if they choose or could not have children.

Although women with special circumstances have been given a shorter work with the same pay, there are concerns that without the same option for men, women breadwinners may be pushed out of the workforce or barriers would be raised making it harder for them to remain in the workforce. Other bills include adopting a time frame of hours that women can work and could mandate gender segregation in the workplace.

Child marriage also remains legally possible for girls aged 13 and boys aged 15. Even younger children can be married with the permission of the court, but the marriage may not be consummated until puberty. In June, a spokesperson for the Tehran-based Association to Protect the Rights of Children stated that child marriages had reached alarming levels and stressed that approximately 17% of all marriages in the country involve girls married with old men. Forced marriages are prohibited by law.

iran_police2015Other areas of discrimination against women are the laws and regulations regarding their dress in public. Girls may be picked up and abused by the morality police for their dress at any time. Ordinary Iranian citizens are empowered to enforce laws that prohibit acts considered to be vices under sharia. This creates a vigilante justice system, as each individual becomes the law when they judge if a woman is dressed appropriately or not. This includes enforcing the wearing of the hijab. Women who appear without an Islamic hijab continue to risk arrest and imprisonment, even those who are not religiously Muslim, but are one of the minority religions within Iran.

There are also little in the way of protections for women who are victims of violence and marital rape. Certain provisions in Iranian law may actually encourage sexual abuse, such as article 1108, which obliges wives to fulfill the sexual needs of their husbands at all times. Lighter punishments are also doled out for murder of a woman if it was committed by a father or paternal grandfather of the victim in the case of so-called honor killings. Judges even have the right to release the perpetrator without any punishment.

Clearly, the situation for women in Iran is not improving and the international community must step up to address these issues, especially as International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world this March 8.

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