Some 9 months have elapsed since the 11th Majlis began its term on May 27, 2020, in what is a male-majority parliament, with only 5.7 percent women’s participation. The few women who joined Parliament are mainly representatives from the fundamentalist faction – which is controlled by Khamenei and which represents the most reactionary and misogynistic attitudes and the cruelest policies. Thus, this parliamentary minority of women adopted the Population Growth and Family Support Plan – in reality, a euphemism for marginalizing women by having them stay at home.
The 11th Majlis’s first plan, called the Comprehensive Plan for Population and Family Excellence, is a scheme known as Population Growth and Family Support. In just one month, until November 2020, the commissions responsible for reviewing this plan have held 19 meetings (The state-run sahebnews website, December 7, 2020).
On March 16, 2021, the plan was approved in Parliament’s open court, with 161 votes in favor. It should be noted that the Population Growth and Family Support Plan was launched on June 18, 2013, with the aim of increasing the fertility rate to at least 2.5 children per woman (The state-run Tasnim news agency – March 17, 2021).
Fatemeh Mohammad Beigi, a member of the Presidium of the Parliamentary Health Commission, considers the population growth and family support plan to be “among the best laws in the Islamic Republic of Iran in history” (The official IRNA news agency, April 2, 2021). However, this plan is simply a euphemism for keeping young women home to prevent them from leading and influencing protests that would lead to the regime’s overthrow.
It must be noted that Iranians today lack the financial, psychological, and emotional means to raise more children.
Content of the Plan on Population Growth and Family Support
While the mullahs’ regime has a 42-year history of failing to keep promises (since it seized power in 1979), the commitments made in this plan reflect the power of women: their continuing protests and uprisings will eventually lead to regime overthrow. Thus, the regime needs women to stay at home.
Articles 2-4 of the plan require the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development and the government to allow families to use government facilities to provide housing or land after the birth of a third child.
However, Farshid Pourhajat, Secretary of the Home Builders Association, announced a shortage of 5 million housing units in October 2020 (The state-run Eghtesad website – October 6, 2020).
Mohammad Eslami, Minister of Roads and Urban Development, revealed a more painful truth, admitting that “Statistics show that the number of houses is greater than the number of households. However, housing distribution has major drawbacks. In the meantime, poverty is gradually rising in a society in which people cannot afford to buy or rent a house” (The state-run Iran Kala website – Avril 27, 2020).
The plan paves the way for extracting funding from low-income families. Article 5 allows the Ministries of Oil and Energy to consider the number of children present in a home when determining low-consumption subscribers for water, electricity, and gas bills. Thus, a family must raise their first and second children in misery and can only be safe from government looting or dream of having a home after their third child.
This aligns with other promises, such as stimulus payments, tripling subsidies, reducing tariffs on agricultural land, lowering taxes, increasing wages, and paying insurance premiums for the third child and successive ones.
The plan also promises to increase maternity leave, provide job security during pregnancy and after childbirth, enable early retirement, provide food and health support packages, and lower the cost of urban amenities for mothers. While these promises appear to be positive, they are, in fact, wholly disconnected from the regime’s history and current policies.
Article 28 warns the media outlets and relevant agencies not to broadcast any program that conflicts with the population increase program. Instead, these institutions should consider strengthening and supporting the role of motherhood and increasing the number of children in all their programs, even in commercials.
Articles in the plan indicate that various government agencies are responsible for promoting the propaganda to increase the number of children. They must allocate part of their budget to this work. For example:
According to Article 37, the Islamic Development Organization is charged with monitoring marriage-matchmaking centers and institutions, including cyberspace, to enforce behavior that complies with the regime’s general policies.
Articles 44 to 59 also hold responsible the State Security Forces, the Ministry of Intelligence, and all security agencies for controlling matchmaking. These state institutions are directed to forcibly prevent abortion, and to monitor all sales of abortion drugs or related consultations, even in cyberspace.
Finally, Article 70 makes exceptions to the provisions of the above law conditional on Khamenei’s approval.
The plan concludes by threatening violators with imprisonment, fines, and deprivation of social rights in Article 71 (The state-run Ekhtebar website – March 27, 2021).
The Bill to Prevent Violence Against Women in Iran
The bill for the protection, dignity, and security of women against violence was also approved by the Rouhani cabinet on January 3, 2021, after 8 years of struggle. The bill was sent to the 11th parliament for consideration on January 14. However, it was ignored in Parliament. In the ongoing power struggle among regime factions, the bill has not been approved; instead, a new plan with the same title was announced but has yet to be considered. However, the plan does not guarantee protection for women exposed to violence.
It seems that Parliament’s real role is to maintain Khamenei’s full sovereignty and hegemony.
In this regard, women, who are the first victims of this misogynistic regime and suffer the most repression, should stay at home and lose their influence in the protests. This will never happen.