If two new proposed laws are approved, Iranian women can face significant restrictions in use of contraceptives and be further excluded from the labor market.
You must reproduce: Attacks on women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Iran
This shows the extreme lengths the Iranian authorities are going to in order to encourage reproduction in a misguided attempt to boost the country’s declining population.
The proposed laws will entrench discriminatory practices and set back the rights of women in Iran by decades. The authorities are promoting a dangerous culture in which women are stripped of critical rights and viewed as baby-making machines rather than human beings with fundamental rights to make choices about their own bodies and lives.
“The bills reinforce discriminatory stereotypes on women, and mark an unprecedented move by the state to interfere in people’s personal lives. In their zealous quest to project an image of military might and geopolitical strength by attempting to increase birth rates, Iran’s authorities are trampling the fundamental rights of women – even the marital bed is not out of bounds.”
The Bill to Increase Fertility Rates and Prevent Population Decline (Bill 446) outlaws voluntary sterilization, which is believed to be the second most common method of contraception in Iran, the bill also blocks access to information about contraception, denying women the opportunity to make informed decisions about having children.
The bill was passed by the parliament with an overwhelming majority in August 2014 and is undergoing amendments as recommended by the Guardian Council.
The Comprehensive Population and Exaltation of Family Bill (Bill 315), which is due to be discussed in parliament next month, would further entrench gender-based discrimination, particularly against women who choose not to or are unable to marry or have children.
The bill instructs the private and public sectors, to hire employers by the following priority: men with children, married men without children, and married women with children. This bill also makes divorce more difficult and discourages police and judicial intervention in family disputes, exposing women to increased risks of domestic violence.
Under Iran’s civil code women seeking a divorce need to prove they are facing “unbearable hardship”, while men can divorce their spouse without giving any reason. Men also have the right to have at least two permanent wives and as many “temporary” wives as they please. Bill 315 encourages judges to rule against divorces by offering them a bonus based on how many of their cases result in marital reconciliation.
The message of these bills is that women serve no value other than being an obedient housewife and mother and suggests they do not belong in the workforce until they have fulfilled their primary role and duty.
Iran’s Penal Code penalizes women as young as nine years old who fail to cover their hair and comply with compulsory dress codes with imprisonment or a cash fine. These laws are regularly used by the police to harass and detain women in public for their appearance and clothing.
(Amnesty International – March 11, 2015)