Legal Safeguards for Iranian Women

Assuming that the essential function of a legal system is to safeguard the security of all members of the community, regardless of one's sex, color, or creed, the current legal system in Iran must be considered dysfunctional. For, it is a gender-based legal system where the inequality of men and women has been officially sanctioned. In such a system the personal safety and civil security of women are left unprotected, particularly in sensitive and fundamental areas. Legal discrimination against women, which is clearly a source of insecurity, is incorporated, inter alia, in laws and regulations covering marriage, citizenship, custody of children, and criminal liability of juveniles. Furthermore, some of these laws tend to negate the presumption of innocence whenever women are involved. To make matters worse, women's efforts to correct the system and change the status que in the legal system are met, not surprisingly, by official opprobrium. More often than not, those who are actively involved in such efforts run the risk of being branded as favoring decadent western values and are at times subject to indictment and prosecution.

It is, therefore, imperative to overhaul the current laws that clearly lag behind decades old advancements made by Iranian women in social arena. Indeed, there is an urgent need for the creation of a cultural milieu conducive to the free exchange of ideas about the legal system as it affects the lives of women in Iran. Not only women but all members of Iranian society should be involved in this exchange and be allowed to freely discuss the rights and freedoms of Iranian women in legal, religious and rational terms and particularly in the context of universally-accepted norms. The rights of Iranian women are currently being debated within the decision-making circles of the regime of the Islamic Republic. Two opposing factions in these circles have continued to challenge each other on this issue. One of these factions adheres to the traditional interpretation of religious dogmas and the other is willing to review and adjust those dogmas in the context of the present day needs of the Iranian women. The future of women's rights in Iran and the access of Iranian women to equal protection under the law clearly depend on the outcome of the ongoig conflict between these two factions.

Mehrangiz Kar
Current Issue: 
Past Issue