Academic journal article The Journal of Central Asian Studies

Rights of Women in Islamic Republic of Iran

Academic journal article The Journal of Central Asian Studies

Rights of Women in Islamic Republic of Iran

Article excerpt


On 27 August 2006, a women's rights campaign known as 'One Million Signatures Campaign' was launched in Iran.1 This campaign claimed that the Iranian government "seems intent on defining policies that relegate women to the private sphere and reinforce their status as second class citizens" and thus has tried to make the discourse on women's rights a national priority. Accordingly the activists have tried hard to reach out to citizens and engage them in direct dialogue on women's rights and raise their awareness about the negative effects of such discriminatory laws on living of women and the society.

Though different in their attitudes and deeds, all other women's groups, like religious reformists, conservative as well as secular ones, are acting inside and outside Iran, and have taken up these issues.2 While according to religious women's groups great achievements have occurred in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the secular ones claim that these are only small victories as no real legal changes have been achieved in support of women's rights. Though the women have equal rights in marriage and inheritance, or get equal compensation for injury or death (blood money), or pass on their nationality to their children, or for that matter there is an end to stoning for adultery and end to polygamy, yet such examples are not felt satisfactory by secular activists who claim that there are many gender-biased laws in Iran that need to be changed.3

While there was heavy participation of Iranian women in the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that toppled the Shah, the secular groups believe that within months of the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran all rights that women were accustomed to enjoy under the Shah have severely been curtailed.4 For example, the revoking of the 1967 Family Protection Law is one such act and accordingly there is enforcement to observe Islamic dress code for female government workers; ban on women to become judges; reduction of the legal age of marriage for girls to 13; and the ban on married women from attending public schools. Unisex places like beaches, sports centers, schools, public buses are also regarded as the strict sex-segregation policy for which the Islamic Revolution is ideologically committed.5

Pre Revolutionary Women's Rights:

Women's rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran are quite different from those under the Shah. Even at the Shah's regime we may divide them prior to 1963 White Revolution and after up to the 1979. Prior to White Revolution women had no right to participate in the political suffrage that wealthy men had achieved after the 1907 Constitutional Revolution. During all this period up until the enforcement of the 1967 Family Protection Law, the Islamic Shari'at Law was the basis of family, marriage and women's rights in Iran. As examples, the law permitted men to have four permanent and as many temporary wives as they wanted. Custody of children was in the hands of the father and after his death, in the hands of the male relatives on the father's side. Whether the couple had divorced, or else after the death of the father, the mother would not get custody of her children. The woman had to have written permission from her husband to travel. Since inside the country, one does not need to show an ID to travel, this permission was required for traveling outside the country. Citizenship was only through paternity.

Due to the rise of women's rights movements around the world, including Iran, certain changes appeared gradually such as the right to vote, which was established in Iran in 1963. The 1967 Family Protection Law and its amendments of 1974 also required married men to get permission from their permanent wife, or wives, to acquire another permanent wife though this did not apply to temporary wives.

Post Revolutionary Women's Rights:

After the establishment of the Islamic government in Iran, a move was made to implement the Shari'at law widely. …

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