The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights is urging Iran to decriminalize mandatory veiling laws, warning that the harassment of women, including what they do or do not wear, appears to have intensified as street protests have died down.
“Women and girls face increasingly stringent legal, social, and economic measures in the authorities’ enforcement of discriminatory compulsory veiling laws,” Volker Türk told reporters in Geneva Wednesday. “I urge the government to heed Iranians’ calls for reform, and to begin by repealing regulations that criminalize non-compliance with mandatory dress codes.
In the past few days, state authorities presented a bill to Parliament that would result in additional restrictive and punitive measures on women and girls who fail to comply with the country's compulsory veiling laws, including financial fines and social exclusions.
The bill stated that if people and institutes fail to comply with veiling laws, they will first be warned and fined, or their establishment will be shut down, and, if they continue, a judicial case will be filed.
The rules extend to celebrities and famous people who don't abide by the compulsory hijab laws: "Whenever persons who — due to social, political, cultural, artistic or sports activities have a reputation and social influence — commit the crime of unveiling, their punishment will be increased by one degree depending on the case, and they will also be sentenced to deprivation of professional activity for a period of 3 months to one year.”
The proposed bill has been sent to Parliament and, if approved, will be sent to the Guardian Council, a secretive 12-member council of jurists and clerics empowered to overturn legislation and approve or reject candidates for public office, for final approval.
“The onus is on the State to introduce laws and policies to protect the human rights of women and girls, including their right to participate in public life without fear of retribution or discrimination,” Türk said.
Many women in Iran have publicly opposed the mandatory hijab since the death last September of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died while in custody of Iran’s morality police.
Amini had been detained for allegedly violating the hijab rule, and her death sparked nationwide protests.
Last month, Iran launched a new domestic surveillance program for enforcing its mandatory hijab law.