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Women’s Rights in Iran

An Iranian woman raises her fist amid the smoke of tear gas at the University of Tehran during a protest, in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 30, 2017.

Several photos and videos posted to social media during the recent Iran anti-government demonstrations have shown women removing their hijabs to protest the Iranian dress code and one woman raising her fist in the air as she walked through a cloud of tear gas.

The images are notable in that Iran severely restricts women’s rights, from what they are allowed to wear in public to the jobs they hold, to not being allowed to watch men’s sports in stadiums.

Iranian expatriate Roxanne Ganji holds a sign at a protest in Los Angeles, Jan. 3, 2018.
Iranian expatriate Roxanne Ganji holds a sign at a protest in Los Angeles, Jan. 3, 2018.

According to Amnesty International, restrictions on women’s rights in Iran include:

  • Compulsory “veiling” (hijab) laws. The laws violate a woman’s right to equality, privacy, and freedoms of expression, belief and religion, and empower police and paramilitary forces to target women for harassment, violence and imprisonment.
  • Limited political involvement. Women’s rights activists who had campaigned for greater representation of women in the February 2016 parliamentary elections, were subjected by the Revolutionary Guards to lengthy, oppressive interrogations and threats of imprisonment on national security charges.
  • Pervasive discrimination. Women remain subject to discriminatory laws, including in gaining access to divorce, employment, equal inheritance, politics and in the area of criminal law.
  • Sexual and reproductive health. Several draft laws that remain pending would further erode a woman’s right to sexual and reproductive health. Women continue to have reduced access to affordable modern contraception as the authorities have failed to restore the budget of the state family planning program cut in 2012.
  • National family policies. In September 2016, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued national family policies promoting early marriage, repeated childbearing, fewer divorces, and greater compliance to “traditional” roles of women as housewives and men as breadwinners. The policies raised concern that female victims of domestic violence may face further marginalization and increased pressure to “reconcile” with abusers and remain in abusive marital relationships.
  • Gender-based violence. Women and girls remain inadequately protected against sexual and other gender-based violence, including early and forced marriage. The authorities failed to adopt laws criminalizing these and other abuses, including marital rape and domestic violence, although the Vice Presidency for Women and Family Affairs pushed a draft bill that had been pending since 2012.