By Kaveh Taheri
There is a large disparity when comparing women’s rights in Iran and in the West: Iranian women are still denied their basic fundamental rights. Iranian women are treated as second-class citizens, but authorities choose to ignore that women cannot enter stadiums and that there are gender barriers in the market. They choose to ignore that women have no control over their bodies and that they cannot leave the country without permission.
Ban on traveling abroad and entering stadiums Women are banned from leaving the country without first receiving permission from their husbands; single Iranian women (up to age 40) may need their father’s permission to travel abroad. Husbands can ban their wives from leaving the country at any time.
Female athletes in Iran face huge difficulties in attending matches. Niloufar Ardalan, the captain of the Iranian soccer team and the best female player equipped with her “magic” left foot, was deprived of playing in the Women’s Futsal Championship of Malaysia in 2015 due to Sharia law. Niloufar was banned from attending the matches after her husband, TV showman Mehdi Toutounchi, did not allow her to attend the tournament based on Iran’s Islamic rules. Today, Iranian women are still banned from stadiums. The ban originated after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran which Iranian hard-liners approved and implemented.
Gender Discrimination Iranian parliament opposed granting citizenship to children born of Iranian women and foreign men. Hossein-Ali Amiri, the Iranian Deputy Minister of Interior, said the adoption of this law would create “security, political, and social” problems for the country and increase immigration, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Iran’s Islamic rules, however, do not extend to children born to Iranian women outside Iran.
Gender inequality and discrimination pervade Iranian society under Islamic laws. According to Article 157 of Iran’s new penal code, which was approved in January 2012, the criterion for criminal responsibility for girls is the age of eight years, nine months. In addition, the testimony of a man is often given twice the weight of a woman’s. Moreover, the testimony of a woman is not accepted for certain types of offenses.
Women undergo various forms of harassment, abuse, and discrimination by the Iranian regime on a daily basis for not observing “proper” hijab. Hijab refers to the head covering traditionally worn by some Muslim women as well as modest Islamic styles of dress. Article 63 of the penal code: “Those women that appear in the streets and public places without the Islamic hijab shall be sentenced to prison or fined as a punishment to pay some money to superior authorities.”
According to Article 1168 of the previous civil code, the guardianship of children is granted to the father and/or the paternal grandfather. Further, the husband can end his marriage without any grounds in accordance with the law. Article 1133 of the previous civil code (1928) stated “a man can divorce his wife whenever he wishes to do so.” At the core of the marriage contract is tamkin, or the wife’s submission, defined as an unhampered sexual availability that is regarded as a man’s right and as a woman’s duty.
Without an acceptable excuse, the wife’s failure to comply with the lawful wishes of her husband constitutes nushuz, or disobedience, which means she may lose her rights, according to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC). While women may contract only one marriage at a time, under Iranian Islamic law it is a man’s religious and legal right to marry more than one woman. Men may enter into as many as four permanent marriages at a time. Although the right is not stipulated in the civil code, the IHRDC said that it could be deduced from several articles. The courts can also approve a minimum age to marry—13 years for girls. Authorities turn a blind eye to underage marriage, where immature girls have not even reached the legal age to vote. Meanwhile, marriage laws in developed societies have age limits of at least 16 to 18 years.
Under Iran’s Islamic rules, it is the duty of the husband to work for a living and provide nafaqah, or maintenance, for his family; wives have no such duty. However, if women decide to work, whether on account of their personal desire or due to insufficient income of the family, they do have the right to work.
Despite the 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani in the Islamic Republic of Iran, women continue to face new challenges in exercising their civil rights. It is a great challenge for women to reach equality as well as accessing education and workforce resources, according to the Women News Network.
In Iran, the president is elected for a four-year term by the direct vote of the citizens, but it is not as simple as that. The president must be elected from among religious and political men, according to Article 114 and 115 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Thus, the constitution rules out half of Iran’s population and systematically bars women from running for president.
Equal rights to inheritance is also not established under Iran’s Islamic Sharia law—when a father dies, his son is entitled to twice as much as his daughter, according to Article 907 of the civil code.
Iranian women deserve the same basic rights as men. Discrimination against them must end.
This article was written by Kaveh Taheri & Laleh Moazen.