New Iranian Laws Tighten Hijab Restrictions, With Decade-Long Sentences For Failure To Comply

Lawmakers in Iran have introduced new legislation that would intensify already harsh gender rules. For example, as one C.N.N. article reports, previous consequences of being seen without a hijab could land someone in prison for as long as 10 days, with a maximum sentence of two months. Now, with the new rules, this time has been extended to five-to-10 years.

On top of this, celebrities and businesses who undermine or otherwise go against the new regulation will face harsh penalties of their own, like not being able to leave the country for a certain period of time. The law may thus have prevalent and wide-ranging negative effects.

U.N. experts have not held back with their censure for this revision, going so far as to call it “gender apartheid.” In the C.N.N. article, these experts added that the laws “are inherently discriminatory” and that this “gender persecution” can affect “children and society as a whole.” Meanwhile, as a C.B.S. article reports, Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi has stated that women who have been “trained by foreigners” are “ignorant” and “need to be woken up” from the blasphemy they commit by showing their hair.

Matters of world peace are not always matters of war and violence. When a group experiences a great injustice, this can lead them to harm and suffering, to an extent that gains international attention. Iran’s new hijab laws would heavily restrict the freedoms of a full half of its population, even more than they have already been curtailed. When Iranian morality police killed Jina Mahsa Amini last year for speaking out against these laws, her death showed that those who protest – peacefully or not – risk being detained, and subsequently, murdered, simply for acting against the state.

It was not always like this in Iran. A B.B.C. article discussing institutionalized sexism in the nation before and after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 showed women living very different lives than the ones they are allowed currently. The article shares photos of women in universities, having picnics, and most ironically, in public hair salons. Although many of the women in the pictures wear head scarves, out of personal choice, there were no mandatory hijab laws then.

All of this changed when the previous Shah was ousted from his position – for many reasons, but in part due to his heavy interest in westernizing Iran. With the new leaders claiming they had divine backing, heavy religious influence was introduced and a strict theocracy was founded, leading us to the heavy persecution of today.

On its own, the hijab can be a beautiful expression of religious faith and a very important facet of one’s life. But when a government mandates hijab under penalty of terrible consequences, it becomes a tool of gender persecution. Because they lack representation in government and have not been allowed the ability to account for their own interests through law, Iranian women have no say in how they must dress their bodies or the punishments they will receive if they disobey the State. The Iranian women and girls who have continued to demonstrate against their nation’s hijab laws over the past year have shown tremendous courage, but Iran has crushed any protest, peaceful or not, in the name of squashing dissent. If Iran continues to suppress all meaningful political challenge, laws like this one will only become more discriminatory, with even harsher punishments for speaking out.