On April 9, while the Islamic Republic continued to harass and suppress Iranian women over their defiance of forced hijab, the Iranian parliament approved the general outlines of a draft bill called “Preventing harm to women and improving their safety against maltreatment.”

The bill was initiated around 12 years ago and was repeatedly sent back and forth between the parliament, the government and the judiciary for reviews. Now that its general outline has been approved, many supporters of women’s rights believe that it has deviated from its original goals.

The drafters of the bill claim that one of its most important goals is to criminalize certain misogynic and “wrong” traditions. According to the media outlets affiliated with the government, the bill will help protect “women’s privacy” against official bailiffs, will allow them to ask for a “judge’s permission” to leave the country if the husband does not allow it, will punish a husband who throws his wife out of their home and will criminalize force marriage or divorce.

“Honor” Killings

However, legal scholar Pegah Banihashemi tells IranWire that the bill does not address some of the important issues affecting Iranian women, including domestic violence and “honor” killings. In such killings, Banihashemi points out, the family usually forgoes qisas (retribution), and, if the murderer is the father, he escapes punishment.

Article 29 of the bill’s Chapter 4 states that, in cases where the killer is not subjected to qisas, he will be sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison if the killing was planned and to five to 10 years otherwise. Currently, such a killer is punished by a sentence of two to 10 years in prison for “disrupting public order,” Banihashemi says.

“The new bill has only added the idea of ‘prior planning,’ which increases the punishment to 10 to 15 years, whereas earlier the intention was to impose long prison sentences such as 25 years to punish ‘honor’ killings. Therefore, the change that this bill would bring about is not really significant.”

Permission to Leave the Country

The other issue addressed by the bill is the husband’s permission for his wife to leave the country, as required under the law. Article 50 of the bill states that if a woman wants to travel abroad and her husband “unjustifiably” refuses to grant her permission, she can submit a complaint to the family court. She would have to explain why she needs to travel and the court would decide whether to issue a permit specifying how many times the woman is allowed to travel abroad and for how long.

“Who is to decide if the husband’s refusal to permit his wife to travel abroad is ‘justifiable’?” Banihashemi asks. “The judge in the court is a man, so, after the husband refuses to grant the permit, another man reviews the request and decides whether the husband’s refusal is justified or not. Furthermore, it doesn’t provide any details about what ‘unjustifiable’ means. Therefore, the bill doesn’t solve the problem and only says, ‘Go to court if you have a problem.’ But even now, if [a woman] has such a problem, she can go to court and ask the court to handle it. The only difference is that the new bill says the court must give priority to the case.”

Banihashemi says that, under the proposed law, the court would issue a travel permit “if the necessity is proven,” so it seems that it applies only to cases where women want to leave Iran for purposes such as participating in sports events or for scientific purposes. Therefore, when it comes to allowing women to travel abroad, this bill does not represent a significant change.

Child Marriage and Forced Marriage

Article 34 of the bill states that if the guardian of a girl forces her to marry he would face prison and payment of a fine. But Banihashemi says that this article is highly problematic because it does not explain what would happen with the marriage itself. Would it be annulled and declared unlawful? If the girl who was forced to marry is 13 or 14, can she go to court against her guardian?

Leily Pourzand, a women’s rights scholar, points out that most child marriages and forced marriages are not legally registered. She tells IranWire that the bill does not provide a correct definition of forced marriage: “Perhaps we should ask this question first: How, in a patriarchal system, can an underage girl oppose a marriage forced on her by her father and brother and other men in the family?”

This Bill Doesn’t Solve Women’s “Smallest Problems”

The general outlines of the bill were approved with the support of President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration following the eruption of nationwide protests demanding more women’s rights. The Islamic Republic was expelled from the UN Commission on the Status of Women in December 2022 over its brutal crackdown on the protest movement. Perhaps one of the reasons why the government rushed this bill to parliament after 12 years was to improve its image in the field of women’s rights.

However, as Pourzand puts it, “family laws, the Islamic Penal Code and, most important of all, the constitution of the Islamic Republic are so fundamentally misogynic that the footprints of misogyny cannot be removed by such laws. She says the bill repeatedly refers to Sharia and does not consider the woman as being independent from her family. In fact, she believes that, for the Islamic Republic, “woman’s safety” means “family’s safety.”

According to Pourzand, the laws of the Islamic Republic do not satisfy the needs of society, especially women and young people: “The Islamic Republic’s system of religious despotism thinks it can calm down society and convince women to turn away from the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ uprising, but this regime is unaware that Iranian women have left behind the Islamic Republic and its misogynic legal and judiciary system, and such bills don’t solve even their smallest problems.”

Source » iranwire