On Tuesday, November 2, 2021, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, announced the final approval of the Population Growth Plan. The plan is Ali Khamenei’s executive policy, proposed since 2013, to keep women at home under the pretext of regenerating or increasing the population.
In early May 2013, the mullahs’ supreme leader disgustingly addressed his admirers. He described women’s role in society as housekeepers and child bearers. Khamenei emphasized, “Housekeeping and pregnancy are great and artistic work for women.”
As of June 2013, the regime’s Parliament began working on a plan to meet Khamenei’s demands. Indeed, the goal was to violate women’s rights and freedoms, as usual.
However, brave Iranian women ignored Khamenei’s plan. Therefore, he resumed his work in September 2016, reinstating a 16-article decree encouraging women to bear children and assume all responsibility for housekeeping. He also called for the creation of an all-inclusive national movement to promote and simplify marriage.
New mullahs’ attempt to make women stay home
In a speech prior to the final approval of the Population Growth Plan, Qalibaf implied that Khamenei had failed to garner support for the plan. In the parliament’s public session on November 2, he made baseless promises to support families and provide housing and economic incentives.
Qalibaf added, “Last year in July, the supreme leader took repeated actions in the population and family protection field, but until now, we have not seen significant or effective results. Therefore, supporting the family by focusing on their concerns in all areas has been one of the most important goals and priorities of the eleventh Parliament.”
Citing a report by a statistical institution, Qalibaf claimed that married women, between 15 and 49 years of age, are interested in having three or more children. However, they avoid having multiple children because of the lack of support, negligence of policy-makers, as well as socio-economic pressures.
The speech exposes how the regime officially recognizes the tragedy of child marriage and refers to children under the age of 18 as potential mothers. It also projects childbearing as Iranian women’s role in society and their main issue of concern.
This is while Iranian women are publicly expressing their main concerns every day. A glance over the protests and demands of teachers, nurses, retirees, farmers, etc., makes it clear that Iranian women’s main concerns are freedom, justice, non-discrimination, poverty alleviation, social rights, and the eradication of government corruption.
Family protection, a pseudonym for violating women’s rights
Under the guise of “family support,” the regime prevents women’s empowerment by keeping them under their husbands’ control. This means the woman must receive her husband’s permission to leave home, travel, work outside, etc. Therefore, plans and laws like the Population Growth Plan are merely tools and methods to impose further restrictions on women and to deny them their freedoms.
The Population Growth Plan was the first plan the 11th Parliament received nine months after its formation. The plan is officially entitled, the Inclusive Plan for Population and Family Excellence, and also known as the Plan for Population Growth and Support for the Family. The parliamentary committees tasked with reviewing the Population Growth Plan held 19 meetings in December 2020, alone.
Compare this to the bill to prevent violence against women. After 10 years of foot-dragging, the deficient bill has remained stagnant in the parliament for ten months despite the growing and harrowing rate of violence against and murder of women.
The regime’s Parliament has prioritized a plan that totally counters women’s rights instead of addressing the major problems of poverty, unemployment, and managing the Coronavirus.
With its false economic promises such as loans for young couples and subsidized pregnancy costs, the Population Growth Plan promotes violation of women’s rights in society.
The plan’s terms, which will soon be enforced as a law, have severely restricted abortion and pregnancy screenings. It tramples on women’s right to reproduce, to choose to have children, determine the number of children and the interval between births, have access to information, and use contraceptives and sexual health medications – all rights recognized by the United Nations.
Furthermore, enforcing this law pressures women to bear multiple children and will have serious consequences for mothers who are already deprived of protection from other forms of gender-based violence.
The consequences of implementing such policies are not only legal, but cover health and economic aspects, as well. The Population Growth Plan will on the one hand endanger women’s job security in a market that is already unsafe and insecure for women. On the other hand, the plan overshadows women’s collective social role as the most economically productive and socially effective force.