Gender-based violence is an issue that transcends countries, an issue prevalent across the globe. Iran has been heavily criticized globally for their official stance on women’s rights. However, after years of advocacy, change appears to be on the horizon. Under the current legislative framework, there is limited protective measures for women who have survived or at risk of domestic violence. Hence, President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has passed a bill named the “Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence.” It was lobbied by senior women in Rouhani’s government and in a tweet by Masoumeh Ebtekar, the vice president for women and family affairs, the bill decidedly is dedicated to the “worthy and patient Iranian women.”
The bill is a step forward in addressing women’s rights in Iran. The legislation outlines provisions that engages government bodies. Most notably, the bill mandates the judiciary of Iran to allocate resources towards domestic violence survivors and inform judges and other staff on these types of crimes. Moreover, the bill encourages dissemination of information of the nature of domestic violence crimes and how to identify women at risk. Furthermore, the bill will increase medical and psychological services for survivors and ensure additional staff training.
The issue of gender-based violence is particularly pertinent in Iran as a national survey in 2014 indicated that 66% of married women experienced domestic violence at least once in their lives and 30% of them have experienced physical violence.
According to Tara Sepehri Far, a researcher at the Human Rights Watch: “for decades, Iranian women have been waiting for comprehensive legislation to prevent violence against women and prosecute their abusers,” adding, “With the growing national attention to this important issue, the law is long overdue, and parliament should not waste any time in adopting it.”
The formalization of this bill came from the aftermath of multiple domestic violence cases in 2020 which sparked the #metoo movement in Iran in September.
Iran is 1 of 50 countries that does not have clearly outlined domestic violence laws. Despite this bill being a step in the right direction for the women of Iran and the safeguarding of their future, there are shortcomings.
The Human Rights Watch, an independent organization, indicates whilst the bill does promote women’s rights, it still does not meet international standards. The bill does not include provisions for criminalizing marital rape and child marriage. Under Iranian law and in the proposed bill, consensual sexual relationships outside of marriage are considered unlawful. The punishment includes flogging, so there is risk that women will not report their crimes of rape because of this law.
Moreover, the bill also stipulates that both parties in the case should engage in mediation for a month before the case goes to court. However, this directly contravenes the United Nations Women “Handbook for Legislation on Violence against Women,” in which mediation is recommended to be prohibited before legal proceedings because of the power imbalance between the accused and the victim.
This bill represents a positive instrument for women in Iran to receive justice and a supportive legal and political framework for gender-based crime. However, there are gaps in the bill that should be addressed pursuant to the international standards. Therefore, further activism necessary to fuel the addition of provisions to aid and protect the women of Iran.
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