News

Iranian Women Campaign to End Discriminatory Laws against Them

Women are no longer allowed to wear make-up on Iranian television.  “It’s illegal and against Shari’a law,” the head of Iranian state television, Ezatollah Zarghami, was quoted in the Iranian media last week.  Although the issue of make-up is surely trivial, it does reveal how the Iranian establishment treats a woman’s right to make her own decisions.  In fact, the legal rights of women in Iran have been eroded since the Islamic Revolution there 30 years ago.

However, Iranian women are fighting back against what they see as unjust laws that make them second-class citizens.

Journalist Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani is one of many activists trying to eliminate discrimination against women in Iran.   She is under threat of imprisonment in Iran for her role as a founding member of the One Million Signatures Campaign – which not only wants to change those laws, but also seeks to increase awareness of the needs and priorities of women in Iranian society.

Khorasani has written a book in which she details the “inside story” of the campaign and its strategies.  An English translation of the book has just been published.  But because Khorasani cannot herself promote the book, Mahnaz Afkhami, the former Minister of State for Women’s Affairs in Iran, has been authorized to speak in her behalf.  She appeared this week on VOA’s Press Conference USA.
 
Family Laws after 1979

“The family laws in Iran address every aspect of women’s lives – the right to marriage, to divorce, to work, or to choose a residence,” Afkami said.   
She cites a number of laws instituted since the Iranian Revolution:

•    The minimum age for marriage has been reduced to nine.
•    Divorce has become the exclusive right of the male.
•    Polygamy has been sanctioned.
•    The right to work has been made subject to the approval of a male guardian.  
Afkhami says Khorasani and other activists have committed themselves to change these laws through peaceful and non-violent resistance.  “A major barrier Iranian women face is that the laws since 1979 are detrimental to organized movement building and to networking,” Afkhami noted.
 
One way the One Million Signatures Campaign has overcome those barriers is by reaching out to women through “one-on-one” contact.  Afkhami said women in the campaign, who go into private homes as well as to places where women gather, try to get other women to sign on to the petition for change.  “But if they don’t, they leave the information with them because the aim is to get one million activists, not so much one million signatures,” she said.

Political Aspects of Legal Reform

Another goal of the campaign is to involve people in other social justice movements.  “I believe that at the heart of the recent democracy protests to the botched elections was the women’s involvement,” Afkhami said.
 
Afkhami said she believes the power generated by the number of people supporting women’s rights was seen in the recent election.  The two reform candidates – Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi – initially supported a complementary role for women, a position barely indistinguishable from their conservative opponents.  “But because of the extraordinary mobilizing of the One Million Signatures Campaign and other related groups,” said Afkhami, “both Karroubi and Moussavi had to respond to these women – like candidates everywhere.”  The two reform candidates, she noted, ultimately signed onto the ratification of CEDAW, the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Obstacles to the Campaign for Equality

“The biggest challenge facing the campaign is the pressure that comes from the government,” Afkhami said.  Almost every member of the campaign that has had a leading role has been arrested, harassed, or tried.  The campaign cannot legally register or hold meetings, or do workshops.  “It makes it very difficult for sustained effort,” Afkhami said.
 
Afkhami says the activists and their followers are extremely resilient, courageous, and inventive.  “The reason the world heard so much about what was happening in Iran during the election is because of the sophisticated use of text-messaging, cell phones, Facebook, and other technologies, which are largely the domain of the young and are so helpful in bypassing government limitations,” Afkhami said.  

 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs