Why the Iranian regime does not join the CEDAW?
This pamphlet prepared by the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, intends to shed light on the Iranian regime’s
inherent incompatibility with the principles and articles laid down in the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and demonstrate that the regime’s refusal to join the CEDAW is not a cultural issue but exactly legal and political relevant to the security interests of an undemocratic and dictatorial regime. This is an endeavor to show how suppression of women and stripping them of their rights is intertwined with the regime’s subsistence in its entirety.
As it would be seen in the following pages, only Article 1 of the CEDAW “contradicts in 90 cases with the articles of the Constitution, the Civil Code, the Islamic Penal Code, etc.” of the Iranian regime.
The Iranian regime was called to join the CEDAW in 1992.
In 1996, the Foreign Affairs Ministry experts studied the convention and evaluated it as being in some cases contradictory to the laws of the country. They thus proposed reforms in some laws, if possible, and then making reservations to some other articles of the convention in other cases.
In 1997, the convention was reviewed by the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution. According to a report by the Iranian regime’s National TV and Radio, CEDAW is against Sharia laws in 40 cases and against national laws in 70 cases.
On the other hand, according to the report of the government’s delegation, there were more cases of contradiction, such that only Article 1 of CEDAW contradicts in 90 cases the articles of the Constitution, the Civil Code, the Islamic Penal Code and etc.
Therefore, the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, rejected the convention and the proposal to join it.
In 1999, the Presidential Center for Women’s Participation submitted a report to the United Nations, indicating that a working group had been assigned the task of studying the possibility of joining the convention. The center pledged to follow up on joining the convention. At the same time, UNSG Kofi Annan called on Iran to join the convention.
Having consulted with various ministries, a government sub-committee ultimately decided in December 2001 to join the convention. On December 19, 2001, the government of the Islamic Republic, ratified a bill allowing the country to join the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. However, there were two conditions: a) that the IRI will implement only the articles which do not contradict Islam, and b) the IRI does not consider itself obliged to implement paragraph 1 of Article 29 on arbitration over cases of difference.
Subsequently, the mullahs’ parliament passed the government’s bill but the Guardians Council turned it down because of its contradiction to 9 articles of the Constitution and the essential principles of “Islam” on inheritance, blood-money, divorce, testimony, age of puberty, Hijab and polygamy.
In a letter to the speaker of the parliament, the Guardians Council indicated that the Convention contradicts the Sharia and the Constitution in so many cases that making reservations to them would not be acceptable according to paragraph 2 of Article 28 of CEDAW. In the meantime, since the IRI reservations would not be compatible with the original goals of the Convention, it would be anti-Islamic to recommend joining the convention, since it contradicts articles 2, 3 (paragraphs 1 and 5), 4, 10, 20, 21, 72, 115 and 153 of the IRI Constitution.
In view of Iranian regime’s experts
The regime’s experts and ideologues argue that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women contravenes the Constitution and the Civil Codes of the “Islamic Republic” of Iran. They say CEDAW is an attempt by the West to globalize its culture and that western standards of human rights and women’s rights could not be accepted and implemented by the World of Islam.
Denying universality of human rights, Ali Khamenei, the mullahs’ supreme leader, believes that acceptance of such western prescriptions are against Islamic dignity and are counter-productive, because the regime would have to surrender to the instructions of “Arrogant Powers” and endorse them. It would also have an adverse impact on other Muslim countries that look to Iran as their role model and patriarch.
In response to those who suggest that joining the CEDAW would lift the international pressure on Iran, the regime’s experts argue that not only it would not lift any pressure, but would bring about further international condemnations. They express pity at accepting and signing onto the conventions on Human Rights and Children’s Rights which have brought them only censures on the international level.
The regime’s experts in the Organization of Islamic Culture and Communications (OICC) argued that “given the natural differences between men and women, any differences in granting social responsibilities and consequently in granting rights should not be considered as discrimination.” This explanation addresses articles 1, 2 and 28 of the CEDAW.
The OICC experts further note that it is essential to make reservations with regards to CEDAW Article 7 on women’s judgeship, Article 9 on equality of man, wife and children on right to citizenship, Article 16 on equal rights of men and women in marriage, and on Article 29 on arbitration of the Supreme Court of Justice.
The OICC believes that the cases suggested by the Foreign Ministry for reform actually comprise some of the most indisputable foundations of the faith and cannot ever be subjected to change.
The IRI Foreign Ministry had proposed reforms – for international and political consumptions – in the following cases:
Women’s nationality after marriage, Article 9, para (1); nationality of children of Iranian women, Article 9, para (2); freedom of travel and residence of women, Article 15, para (4); right to divorce, Article 16, para (c); head of the family, Article 16, para (c); guardianship and custody, Article 16, para (f); child marriage, Article 16, para (2).
The Foreign Ministry had also proposed making reservations in the following cases:
Dispatch of students abroad, Article 10, para (d); equality before the law, Article 15; marriage of Muslim women to non-Muslim men, Article 16, para (a); arbitration of the Supreme Court of Justice, Article 29, para 1; annulment of contradictory laws, Article 2, para (e).
Aside from the details, the regime’s experts and elders do not believe in the basic idea of women’s equality. They say once the original goal and objective of the convention are unacceptable, what is the use of making reservations on other minor cases.
They cite Khomeini, the founder of the Iranian regime, as saying, “We do not believe in complete equality of men and women in all respects. To do so would amount to the trampling of various essential precepts of Islam and rejection of several verdicts of the Quran.” (Religious Views on CEDAW, Religious Center of the Judiciary Branch, 1998, page 238)
In the following pages, we have endeavored to show the contradictions in law and practice of the Iranian regime as far as the articles of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women are concerned. Then we will make our conclusions.
We have not got into parts V and VI of the convention, since they deal with obligations of the countries that sign the convention.
For the purposes of the present Convention, the term “discrimination against women” shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.
The Constitution of the clerical regime conditions women’s equal rights on “Islamic” principles as interpreted by the backward fundamentalist regime.
According to Article 20 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, all nationals both men and women are equal before the law and enjoy all human, political, economic, social and cultural rights “provided that Islamic principles are observed.”
The Iranian regime’s experts have lined up at least 44 laws in the Iranian Constitution that contradict Article 1 of CEDAW on women’s basic rights.
They include among others the laws on mandatory dress code for women, prohibition of looking at the opposite sex, half value of women’s testimony, half-value of women’s blood money, differences in carrying out stoning sentences for men and women, sanctioning murder of wife if she is caught betraying her husband, punishing mother for murdering her child but not the father for the similar crime, difference of age in puberty of girls and boys, prohibiting Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men, difference in inheritance by men and women, women’s abiding by men in choosing their residence, conditioning marriage of girls to permission by their fathers, prohibition of marrying relatives, sister-in-law, nieces, etc., allowing men to prohibit their wives from leaving home or engaging in any business that they consider to be against their own rights, sanctioning polygamy and divorce exclusively for men, prohibiting women from having custody of their children, prohibiting abortion and making birth control dependent on husband’s consent, allowing fathers and grandfathers to forcibly wed a minor girl, prohibiting women from wearing men’s clothes, prohibiting women from becoming a judge, preserving leadership exclusively for men, prohibiting women from leading collective prayer, prohibition of mixed-sex schools, prohibition of singing of women in front of men, etc.
Articles 209, 300, and 76 of the Islamic Penal Code on the worth of women’s blood and testimony contravene the CEDAW.
States Parties condemn discrimination against women in all its forms, agree to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating discrimination against women and, to this end, undertake:
- To embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions or other appropriate legislation if not yet incorporated therein and to ensure, through law and other appropriate means, the practical realization of this principle;
- To adopt appropriate legislative and other measures, including sanctions where appropriate, prohibiting all discrimination against women;
(c) To establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination;
(d) To refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with this obligation;
(e) To take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organization or enterprise;
(f) To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women;
(g) To repeal all national penal provisions which constitute discrimination against women.
The Iranian regime does not condemn discrimination against women and is extremely concerned that by acceding to the CEDAW it would be forced to abolish its own laws in favor of the principles laid down by the international convention that calls for elimination of all discriminations against women.
Article 2 contradicts articles 115 of the Constitution, articles 209, 300, 301 of the Islamic Penal Code on the issue of blood money, article 74, 75, and 76 of the Islamic Penal Code on testimony and article 220 of the Islamic Penal Code on the right of father to kill his child, article 49 of the Islamic Penal Code on the age of maturity, etc.
Also Article 147 of the New Penal Code adopted in January 2012 stipulated that the puberty age is 9 for girls and 15for boys.
Article 544 of the New Penal Code asserts that a woman’s blood money is half that of a man.
Ironic is the fact that if a woman is murdered by a man, the victim’s family could ask for retribution in kind (i.e. execution of the male murderer) only if they pay half of the man’s blood money to his family!
This has been underlined in Article 379 of the New Islamic Code of Punishment.
In Article 299 of the New Islamic Code of Punishment, if a father or grandfather kill their child, they are not subjected to prosecution and punishment. While if a mother or grandmother does the same she would be punished in kind.
As for stoning, usually the woman gets stoned on the charge of adultery, because men can claim their relationship to be legitimate through temporary marriage. This is an exclusive right for men since women are not allowed polygamy according to the Iranian regime’s laws.
According to Article 198 of the New Islamic Code of Punishment, the value of a woman’s testimony is half of a man’s and it could be accepted only when it is accompanied by a man’s testimony. Such a vision on women leads to prevention of women from sitting on the bench since their judgment should always be accompanied by a male counterpart.
According to the amendment to Article 638 of the Penal Code, women who appear in public without wearing the mandatory dress code, would be punished by 74 lashes of the whip and jail sentences varying from ten days to two months, while such a punishment does not exist for men.
As for education, primary and secondary schools were segregated in 1979 and co-ed schools are not permitted in Iran. In the universities, segregation was imposed in the form of seating girls and boys in different rows. Then attempts were made to separate their classes, their dining rooms and etc. In 2011, education officials implemented a plan for establishment of universities only for girls and some fields admitted only boys.
In 2012, girls were deprived of studying in 77 educational fields.
Other measures by the Iranian regime in terms of segregating parks, recreation areas, etc. are not affirmative actions in support of women, but attempted at gender segregation.
States Parties shall take in all fields, in particular in the political, social, economic and cultural fields, all appropriate measures, including legislation, to ensure the full development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality with men.
Article 3 calling for full equality of women requires rejection of all forms of gender impact on legislation, laws, programs and planning. Therefore, when women are required to wear the veil in work place, they are discriminated against since their choice of clothing is being restricted because of their gender. So, Article 3 of the CEDAW contradicts the laws of the Iranian regime and is therefore unacceptable.
Also based on a bill ratified by the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution on August 11, 1992, a woman’s employment must not overshadow her duties as a mother. Such a condition does not exist for men and it contradicts Article 1 and Article 3 of the CEDAW.
The fact that state parties to CEDAW cannot make reservations to Article 3, has made it all the more unacceptable to the Iranian regime.
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:
- To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women;
- To ensure that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children, it being understood that the interest of the children is the primordial consideration in all cases.
While mentioning equality of men and women, the Iranian regime’s Constitution discriminates against women by stating that motherhood is women’s greater and more crucial responsibility and it is more valuable than any other job. It thus sets a stereotype for women. Based on this vision institutionalized in the Constitution, women are discriminated against in the job market, sports, education and every other area. Women’s economic participation in Iranian society is only 13% while an average of 50% of all university graduates in Iran have been girls for the past 15 years.
An official of the clerical regime in the women’s directorate admitted recently that some 2 million women have graduated from Iranian universities over the past two decades but their economic participation has dropped 12.5 percent in the same period. (Sussan Bastani, state-run ISNA news agency, February 13, 2016)
A former member of the Supreme Labor Council said: “Women do not enjoy equal opportunity in employment. Sometimes, women have to pledge not to use their maternity leave, or get married or have children so that they could get a job or avoid losing it. A majority of employers believe that women do not have any responsibility in earning the family’s living. This vision prepares the grounds for discrimination. Usually women are not employed as managers or supervisors if a special skill is needed, for example in economic institutions and businesses. Women are not granted night shifts based on the labor law. Also when employers have to provide kindergarten for the children of their female employees or give her six months leave and at the same time preserve her position in the business, they are not willing to hire women and this leads to elimination of women from the job market.” (Tabnak website, November 17, 2013)
Official statistics on unemployment of the 15-24 age group in 2014 shows that women’s unemployment rate in Ardebil Province is 51.2%, in Isfahan 53%, in Alborz 55.9%, in Ilam 86.4%, in Charmahal-e Bakhtiari 80.1%, in Khorassan Razavi 69.5%, in Northern Khorassan 55%, in Khuzistan 63.5%, in Fars 70%, in Qazvin 58.7%, in Kurdistan 55.1%, in Kermanshah 61.6%, in Kogilouyeh and Boyer-Ahmad 64.7%, in Golestan 69.7%, in Lorestan 81.7%, in Mazandaran 64.1%, in Central Province 62.5%, and in Hormozgan 73.1%. (Iranian state-run Economist (Eghtesad-dan), Aug. 13, 2015)
Based on another report, there are more than 28 million unemployed working-age women in Iran. (State-run Tabnak and TNews.ir websites, Nov. 25, 2015)
Shahindokht Mollaverdi, presidential deputy in women and family affairs admitted despite the fact that women comprise half of the workers and employees of the Education Ministry, only one per cent of managers in this ministry are women. (The state-run Fars news agency, Aug. 18, 2015)
The elementary school books contain pictures and material that set a stereotype for boys and girls. There was even talks of separating the school textbooks for girls and boys to include different role models for them. (The state-run ISNA news agency, January 16, 2012)
As for the “common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children”, Article 1169 of the Iranian regime’s Civil Code (in the reformed version) stipulates that in case of divorce, children under seven years of age can be left with the mother and after that the child’s custody goes to the father.
Considering “the interest of the children”, this article is more discriminatory against children since it separates the children from their mother at a time when they are most emotionally attached to them.
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.
The clerical regime does not have any legislations to prevent exploitation of women as prostitutes. Rather, due to women’s exclusion from the job market, more and more women have been driven towards prostitution to earn a living and feed their children. The average age for prostitution in Iran has dropped to 13.
The results of a research done in 2007 on some 300 prostitutes in Tehran was recently published in October 2015. According to this research the majority of women interviewed had begun prostitution around the age 20 and were married once at the age of 15 to 18, considered under-aged according to international standards but legitimized by the Constitution and laws of the Iranian regime. The research also revealed that 65 per cent of the prostitutes interviewed had between two to six and more dependents to support. They had turned to prostitution in the absence of decent jobs for women.
The study also revealed that only six percent of the women interviewed were illiterate, most of them had elementary or high school education and 14% had more than high school education.
It could be easily discerned that forcible marriage of child girls as well as exclusion of women from the job market, both official policies of the clerical regime, actually promote prostitution and prepare the grounds for it.
A new bill presently under discussion suggests sanctioning temporary marriage of girls as young as 9 with their fathers’ consent. In this way, the “needy” father is going to be able to sell his child girl as many times as he wishes to earn money.
There have been many reports on young women and girls being trafficked to other countries both for prostitution and force labor.
In a report published by the official IRNA news agency on October 20, 2015, Ali Sadeghi, head of the State Security Force’s immigration police and passport bureau, said he would not deny that Iranian women and girls are being trafficked to Arab countries. He said most of these people are ostensibly transferred as work force.
Col. Nader Assadollahi, commander of the Sea-Watch station in Abadan, Khuzistan, also announced the arrest of a trafficking gang who took women to Basra for prostitution.
The US Department of State reported in its 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report: “There were reports (that) government officials were involved in the sex trafficking of women and girls. Reports also indicated some officials operating shelters for runaway girls forced them into prostitution rings.”
The US report also noted: “The Government of Iran does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The government made few discernible anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Iranian law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking.”
It was also underlined in this report that, “It was reportedly extremely difficult for female trafficking victims to obtain justice, as Iranian courts accord legal testimony by women only half the weight accorded to the testimony by men. Moreover, female victims of sexual abuse, including sex trafficking victims, are liable to be prosecuted for adultery, which is defined as sexual relations outside of marriage and is punishable by death.”
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country and, in particular, shall ensure to women, on equal terms with men, the right:
(a) To vote in all elections and public referenda and to be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies;
(b) To participate in the formulation of government policy and the implementation thereof and to hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government;
(c) To participate in non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country.
All people in Iran, men and women above 15 years of age, are allowed to vote. However, they are not free to vote for the candidate of their own choice. All candidates for the parliamentary elections, presidency and Assembly of Experts are vetted out by the Guardians Council made up of clerics all of whom are hand-picked and appointed by Khamenei, the mullahs’ supreme leader.
As the world witnessed in 2009, the rigging of the presidential elections in that year led to a massive upheaval and six months of protests all across the country before the ruling dictatorship was able to crackdown and contain the defiant population.
Thus, the Iranian regime’s elections are by no means considered free or fair and women’s votes are taken advantage of either to put up a show of democracy or to overcome the rival faction.
As for the upcoming sham elections, all of the hundreds of women who had registered for the Assembly of Experts election were disqualified. Also, from the 1126 women who had registered for election to the parliament, 1100 were disqualified. It remains to be seen how many of the 26 remaining candidates are going to find their way to the parliament.
As for election to publicly elected bodies, the Iranian regime’s record is abysmal. Women’s average political participation in nine rounds of parliamentary elections has been only 3 percent.
Women are not allowed to run for president or for the Assembly of Experts.
Logically, when the value of a woman’s testimony is considered half of a man’s testimony and it cannot be accepted unless it is accompanied by a man’s testimony, it would be ridiculous for the regime to allow women run for president or make judgments for others. This logic is also institutionalized in the regime’s Constitution.
Article 115: The President of the Republic must be elected from among the religious and political elite…
There have been serious legal disputes over the term “elite”, translated for the Arabic term Rejal which literally means men. Most people believe that Rejal means men whereas a limited number of people trying to legitimize the regime’s laws say it is a general term referring to both men and women.
However, in 2004, the spokesman for the Guardians Council put an end to such disputes and declared, “The Guardians Council has not altered its interpretation of Article 115 of the Constitution, and women are not allowed to run for president.”
The Guardians Council also reiterated that the word Rejal refers exclusively to men and no woman is allowed to be elected as President. The Council has not ever approved of any women to run for president.
As for female judges, after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the instruction was to observe principles of Sharia in implementing Article 162 on the appointment of judges. Therefore, no woman was allowed to sit on the bench after the revolution when the mullahs seized power.
In 1983, a law was passed indicating the circumstances for becoming a judge. According to the new law, judges who issue verdicts must be chosen from among qualified MEN. In 1984, the law was reformed and it was stipulated that women can be appointed to some advisory posts.
According to Articles 105 and 109 of the Constitution, women cannot be leaders, either. In addition, according to Article 20 on women’s political rights, leadership is a duty that is only granted to men.
As for part c of this CEDAW article, the Iranian regime actually does encourage women to take part in NGO activities, as opposed to seeking to be employed in a paid job. The regime’s officials claim that women can have social participation by taking part in NGO activities. In this way, they intend to cover up the exclusion of women from economic, managerial and political participation.
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure to women, on equal terms with men and without any discrimination, the opportunity to represent their Governments at the international level and to participate in the work of international organizations.
The Iranian regime has never appointed any women to represent the government at the international level.
Over the past 37 years, only recently, has the regime appointed a female ambassador to Malaysia, and that is all the international representation of the government by women in almost four decades.
- States Parties shall grant women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality. They shall ensure in particular that neither marriage to an alien nor change of nationality by the husband during marriage shall automatically change the nationality of the wife, render her stateless or force upon her the nationality of the husband.
- States Parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.
Article 976 of the Iranian Civil Code considers the following to be Iranian nationals: All residents of Iran; anyone whose father is Iranian whether born in Iran or abroad; anyone who is born in Iran but their parents are unknown; anyone born in Iran from foreign parents one of whom is born in Iran; anyone born of foreign fathers can receive Iranian citizenship if they stay in Iran one year after they turn 18; any foreign woman who is married to an Iranian man; any foreign national who gains Iranian citizenship.
Clearly, women and men are not considered as equal on the issue of nationality. The man’s nationality takes precedence over a woman’s nationality. And the father’s right over children, takes precedence over the mother’s. Therefore, articles 976 to 991 of the Civil Code on the issue of nationality contradict Article 9.2 of CEDAW.
Interestingly, the children of Iranian women (from foreign fathers) are not entitled to any rights in the country until they are 19, while any foreigner (a man or a woman) can receive citizenship of Iran and enjoy its benefits. So, Iranian women have to suffer to raise their children if they marry foreign nationals.
Article 964 of the Civil Code states that if a couple have different nationalities, the laws of the man’s country take precedence over the laws of the woman’s country. Therefore, men and women do not receive equal treatment in this regard, either. The same is true with regards to children. Children receive the nationality of their father. Again, this contradicts Article 9.2 of CEDAW.
Presently, Iranian women married to foreign nationals are not able to obtain birth certificates for their children.
On February 16, 2016, a government official admitted that there are 20,000 unregistered children in just one province –Khorassan Razavi in the northeast – whose mothers married to Afghan refugees. (State-run ISNA news agency, February 19, 2016)
Poverty is usually the reason for such marriages. Either a father sells her daughter to an Afghan refugee who can pay to buy the girl, or the girl herself is homeless and poor and has to marry someone to save herself.
The figure is thought to be under-estimated since the same official (Mohammad Ajami) had admitted three years earlier, that there were 22,000 such children in the Razavi Province. Many of these children are products of temporary marriages sanctioned by the Iranian regime’s marriage laws.
However, the children who do not have birth certificates are not entitled to any rights in the country, including health care services and education. They would have to wait until they are 19 to be able to register and receive birth certificates. Ajami estimated the total number of unregistered children at 500,000 across the country but a Majlis deputy put the number of these unregistered children at 1 million in a parliamentary debate. (Payam-e Aftab website, September 20, 2015)
Although, the mullahs’ parliament passed a bill on September 2015, on “granting identity” to the offspring of Iranian women who are married to foreign nationals, on October 1, 2015, the Council of Guardians rejected the legislation arguing that the government would not afford to pay for these children’s expenses (government aid, etc.) while the law would encourage more refugees from neighboring countries and create unwanted problems for the country. Subsequently, on October 5, 2015, the parliament also turned down the bill.
Iranian women who have married non-Iranian men are thus left with children who do not bear any identity in the country and are not entitled to any government aid, education, health care services, etc. This sets the grounds of social harms both for the mother and her children.
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education and in particular to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:
(a) The same conditions for career and vocational guidance, for access to studies and for the achievement of diplomas in educational establishments of all categories in rural as well as in urban areas; this equality shall be ensured in pre-school, general, technical, professional and higher technical education, as well as in all types of vocational training;
(b) Access to the same curricula, the same examinations, teaching staff with qualifications of the same standard and school premises and equipment of the same quality;
(c) The elimination of any stereotyped concept of the roles of men and women at all levels and in all forms of education by encouraging coeducation and other types of education which will help to achieve this aim and, in particular, by the revision of textbooks and school programmes and the adaptation of teaching methods;
(d) The same opportunities to benefit from scholarships and other study grants;
(e) The same opportunities for access to programmes of continuing education, including adult and functional literacy programmes, particularly those aimed at reducing, at the earliest possible time, any gap in education existing between men and women;
(f) The reduction of female student drop-out rates and the organization of programmes for girls and women who have left school prematurely;
(g) The same Opportunities to participate actively in sports and physical education;
(h) Access to specific educational information to help to ensure the health and well-being of families, including information and advice on family planning.
Girls and boys, young women and men, do not enjoy the same rights in education. Various forms of quotas have limited women’s entrance into various fields.
In 2003, 65% of those entering universities were women. Such advancement was not tolerated by the Iranian officials and soon suggestions were made to limit the number of women by imposing gender-based quota at the universities. In February of 2006, a bill was proposed to the Iranian parliament to reduce women’s admission to universities. (State-run Khabaronline, May 28, 2012) The Iranian “Supreme Revolutionary Council” ordered the government to include a program to “take appropriate measures to guide women at the universities to find majors appropriate with family responsibilities”. The bill was ironically named, “Promotion of women’s participation in higher education! (Website of the Iranian parliament, October 18, 2015)
In September 2011, the Assembly of Experts declared that all universities must observe gender segregation.
Women were officially banned from studying in 77 majors (State-run Tabnak website, August 9, 2012)
In 2013, gender segregation was intensified and the number of universities with only male or female students increased to 29. (State-run Tasnim news agency, April 16, 2013)
In 2014, some 47 universities rejected female students in various fields. Gender-based quotas strongly favored male students. The number of gender-based majors reached 215, as a result of government policies. (State-run Tabnak website, August 6, 2014)
The Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution announced that it would not issue licenses for new universities unless they pledge to observe sexual segregation at school. According to the SCCR decision, boys would have to attend school in the first half of the year and girls attend school in the other half. (The state-run ISNA news agency, December 6, 2015)
The Iranian parliament passed in December 2015, Article 5 of the bill on Evaluation and Admission of Students for Complementary Education, emphasizing that the quotas ratified by the Supreme Revolutionary Council and the parliament to limit the number of women and the majors they can study, in the higher education system are still valid. (The official website of the Iranian parliament ICANA, February 18, 2016)
Shahindokht Mollaverdi, presidential deputy in women and family affairs acknowledged that more girls are dropping out of school and deprived from education because of early and forcible marriages among other reasons. (The state-run Fars news agency, Aug. 18, 2015)
A Majlis deputy from Zahedan revealed that 156,000 girls in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan are deprived of education. He mentioned mixed high schools and poverty among reasons for exclusion of girls from education. (Website of the Iranian parliament, December 7, 2015)
Education Ministry deputy, Marzieh Gord, announced, “2,200 girls were deprived of education because their teachers were male.” (State-run news agencies, September 8, 2015)
As for stereotypes on the role of men and women and encouraging coeducation, the Ministry of Education banned co-ed kindergartens and pre-schools for 4-6 year-old children in August 2011.
On January 16, 2012, Education Minister Hamidreza Babaii declared that the ministry intends to publish separate textbooks for boys and girls. (The state-run ISNA news agency, January 16, 2012)
Sports and physical education facilities are rare for women. Of course, there are no statistics available on the number of recreation centers for women and girls, but one report indicated that in Kurdistan with women making up one-third of its population, only 17 of the 500 recreation facilities in the province are allocated to women.
Fahimeh Farahmandpour, Interior Ministry’s advisor on Women and Family Affairs, addressed a meeting at the Administrative Council of Sanandaj, Iranian Kurdistan on November 11, 2015. She said, “More than one-third of the population in Kurdistan Province are young women under 29 years of age, while only 17 out of 500 recreational centers in the province is devoted to them.”
- States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights, in particular:
(a) The right to work as an inalienable right of all human beings;
(b) The right to the same employment opportunities, including the application of the same criteria for selection in matters of employment;
(c) The right to free choice of profession and employment, the right to promotion, job security and all benefits and conditions of service and the right to receive vocational training and retraining, including apprenticeships, advanced vocational training and recurrent training;
(d) The right to equal remuneration, including benefits, and to equal treatment in respect of work of equal value, as well as equality of treatment in the evaluation of the quality of work;
(e) The right to social security, particularly in cases of retirement, unemployment, sickness, invalidity and old age and other incapacity to work, as well as the right to paid leave;
(f) The right to protection of health and to safety in working conditions, including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction.
- In order to prevent discrimination against women on the grounds of marriage or maternity and to ensure their effective right to work, States Parties shall take appropriate measures:
(a) To prohibit, subject to the imposition of sanctions, dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy or of maternity leave and discrimination in dismissals on the basis of marital status;
(b) To introduce maternity leave with pay or with comparable social benefits without loss of former employment, seniority or social allowances;
(c) To encourage the provision of the necessary supporting social services to enable parents to combine family obligations with work responsibilities and participation in public life, in particular through promoting the establishment and development of a network of child-care facilities;
(d) To provide special protection to women during pregnancy in types of work proved to be harmful to them.
- Protective legislation relating to matters covered in this article shall be reviewed periodically in the light of scientific and technological knowledge and shall be revised, repealed or extended as necessary.
The clerical regime believes that a woman’s prime responsibility is to attend to the needs of her husband and children and she does not need to work. This vision which has been inscribed in the Constitution as well, contradicts Article 11.1.a of CEDAW which regards the right to work as an inalienable right of all human beings.
Iranian women are also not entitled to the same employment opportunities. They are deprived of studying certain fields of education which automatically excludes them from certain jobs.
Aside from that, employment priority is always given to men. Women’s employment quota in the Education Ministry, for example, is one-sixth of men. According to the state-run Fars news agency, Aug. 8, 2015, only 630 of the 5,000 persons who passed the Education Ministry’s employment test were women. Of the 594 teachers in Tehran’s elementary schools, there are only 157 women. In Tehran, only six women were employed among the 190 new employees. Women are banned from teaching in boys’ high-schools.
A research done by Layla Falahati and Nassim Mahboubi (the state-run Mehr news agency, November 16, 2015) showed that despite equal numbers of men and women graduating from schools of higher education and universities, female graduates have much more difficulties in finding jobs. The study also indicated that women endure high unemployment rates especially in social sciences and law.
Unemployment rate among the female work force in Iran is over 87% and many households whose breadwinners are single mothers live under the poverty line.
Zahra Faraji, general director of Women’s Affairs in the Central Provincial Office, announced that women’s participation rate in administrative affairs was “less than two percent.” (The state-run ISNA news agency, November 11, 2015) She added that despite women’s remarkable growth in various arenas, there are no suitable opportunities for them to advance.
Women are also not free to choose their profession and employment. In addition to restrictions placed by laws and government policies (for example, women are not allowed to work in the coffee shops), women can also be prevented from having an employment by their husbands if the man views his wife’s occupation as harmful to the family, and to her or his own dignity.
As for right to promotion, job security and all benefits, etc., great many women are employed in illegal jobs with low pay and without any job security or benefits. Rouhani’s deputy in women and family affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi, admitted in her weekly meeting with the press, “The unofficial sector of the job market has become feminine, because women are cheap labor force and because they need to earn their living, they accept such jobs.” (The state-run ISNA news agency, August 24, 2015)
As for Article 11.2, women in Iran are discriminated against on the grounds of maternity and many lose their jobs upon return to work.
A Tehran City Council official revealed that women are engaged in unofficial, cheap labor with no insurance. Vice-president of the Health Commission in Tehran’s City Council, Mohammad Haghani, said the majority of 400 employees of the city’s health centers are women with bachelors and higher degrees but do not have a single document as proof of employment according to the law. He added that these women do not have any job security and are not entitled to maternity leaves. (The state-run ISNA news agency, August 25, 2015)
“74,000 women have been expelled from their jobs after returning from maternal leaves,” said Fatemeh Sadeqi, a Teachers’ Training University professor, citing official figures. As for women’s job security, she noted, “With a glance on the past ten years we can see that some 100,000 women have been fired from the job market every year.” (The state-run Fars news agency, June 16, 2015)
- States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.
- Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph I of this article, States Parties shall ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.
The Iranian regime has tabled a Bill 446 to Increase Fertility Rates and Prevent Population Decline threatening women’s right to reproductive health. The country’s population policies are therefore embracing the restrictive contraception approach to promote population growth, with little or no regard for the life, health and dignity of women and girls.
The authorities are also seeking to accelerate population growth through the Comprehensive Population and Exaltation of Family Bill (Bill 315). The bill encourages early marriage and repeated childbearing. The bill also allows discrimination against female job applicants, particularly if they are single or without children.
The bills contradict Article 12.1 of CEDAW.
Another bill passed on February 1st, 2016, ” to reduce the working hours of women with special conditions”, reduces working hours of women to 36 hours per week while the employer has to pay her for 44 hours. Rouhani’s deputy for Women and Family Affairs admitted that the bill would result in gradual elimination of women from the workforce.
Women are deprived of health insurance, appropriate healthcare and delivery services especially in the rural areas. Hospitals and doctors deny services to patients if they are not able to pay immediately. There are numerous instances where women have to deliver their babies in the corridor or in the restroom because the hospital does not have adequate facilities and services for all the patients.
One such report was published on the unbearable conditions of the women’s delivery ward in the 87-year-old Mottahari Hospital of Orumiyeh, northwestern Iran. Laboring women have to lie in the corridors and hallways due to shortage of hospital beds.
A Tehran hospital took hostage the newborn infant of a woman who unexpectedly delivered twins but paid for one delivery. The hospital told her to leave with one newborn baby and come back for the other one, when she brings the money. (State-run Tabnak and Jam-e Jam websites, January 20, 2016)
Women regularly die after delivering their babies.
A 23-year-old woman was delivering her baby in a hospital in Chabahar, southeastern Iran, when the baby’s head was separated due to excessive pressure exerted by the mid-wife. To remove the baby’s body, doctors performed a C-section on the woman, but she went into coma and died a few days later. (Balutch Weblog, December 9, 2015)
State-run press and media reported that Mrs. Ziba Maghsoudi, 31, lost her life four days after delivering her son in a private hospital in Tehran. (State-run TNews.ir website, February 18, 2016)
A pregnant woman who was forced to have a natural delivery because her husband did not afford to pay for surgical operation, died after her child was born. Hospital officials in Salmas, Western Azerbaijan, did not accept to do the surgery without receiving the money first. (Ministry of Health website, Salamat News –September 2, 2015)
A young woman was given the wrong gas instead of Oxygen after giving birth to her twins in a Tehran hospital. As a result, she suffered severe burns and was in coma for a whole day. Then she was taken to the burns ward to be treated for severe burns in her respiratory system and on her face. (The state-run Fars news agency, February 17, 2016)
- States Parties shall take into account the particular problems faced by rural women and the significant roles which rural women play in the economic survival of their families, including their work in the non-monetized sectors of the economy, and shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the application of the provisions of the present Convention to women in rural areas.
- States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women that they participate in and benefit from rural development and, in particular, shall ensure to such women the right:
(a) To participate in the elaboration and implementation of development planning at all levels;
(b) To have access to adequate health care facilities, including information, counselling and services in family planning;
(c) To benefit directly from social security programmes;
(d) To obtain all types of training and education, formal and non-formal, including that relating to functional literacy, as well as, inter alia, the benefit of all community and extension services, in order to increase their technical proficiency;
(e) To organize self-help groups and co-operatives in order to obtain equal access to economic opportunities through employment or self-employment;
(f) To participate in all community activities;
(g) To have access to agricultural credit and loans, marketing facilities, appropriate technology and equal treatment in land and agrarian reform as well as in land resettlement schemes;
(h) To enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications.
Rural women are the most deprived in Iran. If in the cities, there are shortages of facilities, poverty and lack of insurance, etc., in villages women do not have any facilities and do not enjoy any benefits.
Rural women lack social and economic security. They do not enjoy any form of retirement insurance, and do not receive any subsidies when they lose their husbands, or are ill.
Shahindokht Molaverdi acknowledged in a gathering that “no documents exist in the country to attend to the needs and issues of rural women.” (Shaffaf website, October 6, 2015)
Secretary of the working group on rural and tribal women said in this regard, “These women suffer very much but they have no place in our social justice and do not enjoy any benefits. There is no plan for these toiling women. We have not even provided them some cultural grounds.” (Akharin Khabar, March 27, 2015)
There is no statistics available on the number of women who work in the agricultural sector.
- States Parties shall accord to women equality with men before the law.
- States Parties shall accord to women, in civil matters, a legal capacity identical to that of men and the same opportunities to exercise that capacity. In particular, they shall give women equal rights to conclude contracts and to administer property and shall treat them equally in all stages of procedure in courts and tribunals.
- States Parties agree that all contracts and all other private instruments of any kind with a legal effect which is directed at restricting the legal capacity of women shall be deemed null and void.
- States Parties shall accord to men and women the same rights with regard to the law relating to the movement of persons and the freedom to choose their residence and domicile.
Based on the laws of the Iranian regime, a married woman has to have her husband’s consent in order to obtain a passport and travel abroad. Article 18 of the Passport Law of 1973 stipulates that women have to have the written consent of their husbands to receive passports.
According to Article 19 of the same law, husbands can even write and prevent departure of their wives. It is possible for men to take advantage of this privilege to take revenge or punish their wives.
The father can also prevent his under-18 children from leaving the country, while women do not have the right or authority to do so.
In late November, it was reported that 26 coffee shops had been closed down in the Iranian capital.
Prior to this on August 30, 2014, Khalil Helali, chief of Public Places Police pointed out that employment of women in coffee shops were forbidden.” As a general rule it is forbidden to employ women for working in the coffee shops,” he noted. “A woman who applies for coffee shop license must have men as caretaker of the facility because based on the law, women are not allowed to go to coffee shops or work there even if they own the shop’s license.”
(State-run entekhab.ir website – January 9, 2016)
- States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:
(a) The same right to enter into marriage;
(b) The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent;
(c) The same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution;
(d) The same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital status, in matters relating to their children; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;
(e) The same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights;
(f) The same rights and responsibilities with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children, or similar institutions where these concepts exist in national legislation; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;
(g) The same personal rights as husband and wife, including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation;
(h) The same rights for both spouses in respect of the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment and disposition of property, whether free of charge or for a valuable consideration.
- The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.
The Iranian regime’s laws considers consent of father or his father as being necessary for marriage of a virgin girl, while CEDAW 16.1.b conditions marriage on the consent of the couple planning to marry.
The Iranian Civil Code considers the responsibility of expenses for the husband, grants the right to divorce to man except for certain circumstances. While CEDAW 16.1.c considers the same rights for men and women.
In the Iranian Constitution and Civil Code the rights of father over his children are of greater scope compared to their mother. For example, father is considered the guardian of the minor children unless they are under 2 years of age and for girls under 7; mother is not responsible for expenses of her children.
CEDAW 16.1.e considers family planning rights for women, whereas the Iranian regime encourages no contraception.
As opposed to CEDAW 16.1.g, the Iranian Civil Code grants special rights to men to prevent their wives from engaging in a profession that they see harmful to the family or to their own dignity.
CEDAW 16.2 considers all marriages under the legal age of 18 as having no legal effect. In this case, the Iranian law sets a girl’s legal age at 13 as opposed to boys whose legal age for marriage is 15. Secondly, the girl’s father can wed her below 13 years of age if he deems it necessary.
As for the right to divorce, the convention calls for equal rights, while in Iran the right to divorce belongs exclusively to men.
If the Iranian regime adopts and joins the CEDAW, it would be subsequently obliged to remove and eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and create equal opportunities for women in all political, social, economic and cultural grounds (CEDAW Article 3). This is something that the regime considers totally impossible.
It would also need to create the essential instruments for eliminating discrimination against women to ensure equal rights for women (CEDAW Article 10). This is also a fearful specter for the regime. One can feel this fear between the lines of this declaration: “The terms equality and equal rights have been repeated more than 70 times in the 30 Articles of the Convention. The instruments to implement such absolute equality are going to include: removal of Hijab (or veil) as the main element of women’s restrictions; removal of the motherhood role including pregnancy, breastfeeding and raising children, and transformation of a wife’s role into a partner who does not adhere to moral and human ethics. There is going to be emphasis on mixed presence of women and men in sports arenas, education, economy, work environment, social and recreational environments so that those similar rights would be achieved.”
The regime would be further obliged to adopt the necessary legislations for protection of women’s rights (CEDAW Article 2 and 11).
The most difficult for the regime, however, is the fact that it would need to report to the CEDAW committee every four years on the measures undertaken to advance and implement the convention. This would in turn provide an opportunity for groups and individuals to question the government on abiding the convention, something that is essentially intolerable for the undemocratic mullah regime.
So, if the Iranian regime joins the CEDAW and does not reform its laws, it would be formally censured by the international community.
Officials remind of the regime’s joining the Convention on the Rights of the Child where they were international censured for not implementing the convention. Now, they see that the situation would be worse in the case of CEDAW, because there are no compatibilities between the women’s rights convention and the misogynous laws of the country. Therefore, there would be no benefits for the regime in joining the CEDAW, except annual condemnations and the punishments they might entail.
The regime’s leaders and officials believe that such accession to the CEDAW would be humiliating for the regime and would distort and undermine their power and image in the minds of other Muslim nations they wish to have influence on. It would also open the way for Western aggression on the lives and property and families of Muslims, which is religiously unacceptable.
There are also other grave concerns for the regime: If we sign the convention, it means that it would take precedence over the rule of the Supreme Leader! It means that we would have to accept separation of religion and state! This would lead to separation of people from the government and consequent instability of the government!!!
So, they conclude that “the political interest of the state is to continue the status quo and not join the convention.” They are further convinced that “not joining (the CEDAW) will not entail any legal commitments against the Islamic Republic… CEDAW is not a human rights document and its acceptance is not an obligation for the Human Rights signatories.”
Demands of the Iranian Resistance and women of Iran
The Iranian Resistance, which is led by women and has always been on the forefront of defending Iranian women’s rights against violations by the Iranian regime, believes that at a time when the world is undertaking a 50-50 commitment to achieve equality by 2030, the Iranian regime must not be allowed to be a member of or sit in any UN committee discussing women’s rights unless it signs and accepts the CEDAW.
Before doing so, engaging the regime in any women’s project is going to be counterproductive in terms of Iranian women’s rights as well as the UN’s credibility and will only serve the regime’s political, terrorist and expansionist interests.
The regime must understand that not joining the CEDAW will have grave consequences for its diplomacy. Just like human rights, it cannot continue to ignore the rights of half of the population and still expect normal trade and relations with the world community.
The brave and courageous women of Iran deserve much more; that is to respect their 37-year resistance against this regime where thousands of valiant Iranian women gave their lives for freedom and equality of all human beings.