The clerical regime’s parliament finally approved a so-called bill to eliminate violence against women on April 9, 2023, after 12 years of back-and-forth between the government, judiciary, and the regime’s parliament. The approved bill is titled “Preventing Injury of Women and Improving Their Security Against Misbehavior.”
However, after 12 years of delays, the regime presented a bill that essentially disregards the existence of violence against women, evident even in the bill’s title. The word “violence” has been removed and replaced by “misbehavior.”
This new bill merges the government’s drafted bill titled “Preserving the dignity and protection of women against violence” with the parliament’s bill titled “protection, dignity, and provision of women’s security against violence.” Unfortunately, the resulting bill is filled with empty words and phrases that are unlikely to be implemented.
Why did the Iranian regime finally approve the bill “Preventing Injury of Women and Improving Their Security Against Misbehavior”?
The bill was finally approved following significant global exposure of the clerical regime’s criminal actions, notably after the murder of Zhina (Mahsa) Amini due to hijab enforcement and the brutal suppression of the 2022 uprising, tarnishing the regime’s image. This led to the expulsion of the regime from the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Subsequently, the regime committed another murder, that of Armita Geravand, reinforcing to the world its incapacity to reform its oppressive and misogynistic practices.
Notably, alongside direct government-led murders and brutalities, official statistics reveal a distressing surge in violence against women in Iran. Shockingly, during the quarantine period, 77.2% of women experienced at least one form of violence. (The state-run Sharq daily, April 24, 2023)
The statistics provided by the Iranian regime, known for its opacity, cover a significant portion—three-quarters—of Iranian women, marking a rate more than double the global average for violence against women.
Given this alarming track record, the gesture of approving the “Preventing Injury of Women and Improving Their Security Against Misbehavior” that fundamentally contradicts the nature and persistence of this misogynistic regime seems nothing more than a facade—an attempt to mask the true nature of the regime to deceive the international community and public opinion.
The bill’s adoption occurred within a parliament where Hassan Nowrouzi, the vice-chairman of the judicial commission, expressed opposition, stating, “In this bill, it is stated that if a man injures his wife twice, the woman can ask for divorce. This is contrary to Article 38 of the Civil Code. Where in Islam have Sunni, Shiite, Jewish, or Christian jurists ever sanctioned a woman’s right to seek divorce due to minor violence?”
Violence Not Mentioned in “Preventing Injury of Women” Bill
The bill aiming to prevent “injury of women” conspicuously omits the term “violence” throughout its text. Instead, it focuses on policies that advocate gender segregation, further marginalizing women and restricting their freedoms within their own homes.
Regrettably, this bill, titled “Preventing Injury of Women and Improving Their Security Against Misbehavior,” doesn’t address gender-based violence in Iran. It notably replaces the word “violence” with “misbehavior,” leaving ambiguity regarding its definition. Mental and verbal abuse, as well as common physical assaults, are entirely overlooked in this bill.
Furthermore, the term “misbehavior,” limited to direct physical harm, lacks clear prosecution guarantees and has historically not been justly addressed in the regime’s courts. This omission disregards the broader spectrum of violence against women, perpetuating a lack of accountability for such offenses within Iran.
Fatima Babakhani, a jurist and women’s rights activist addressed the spread of violence against women: “The institutionalization of violence against women, failure to criminalize anti-social behaviors, the incompetence of the Judiciary, and the lack of a fair trial ultimately leads to the fact that violent offenders go unpunished.” (The state-run Sharq daily, October 13, 2021)
The persisting risk of domestic violence
The bill titled “Preventing Injury of Women and Improving Their Security Against Misbehavior” holds no significant legal impact on women’s status and security. Primarily, its aim appears to protect the family structure and uphold men’s rights.
Fatemeh Qasempour, head of the women and family faction in the mullahs’ parliament, asserts, “Our approach doesn’t solely focus on punishment; rather, it aims to strengthen family foundations while addressing women’s issues.”
Furthermore, Article 43 of this bill offers forgiveness for specified crimes under certain conditions, including cases involving relatives up to the second degree. Article 44 emphasizes that if the accused belongs to the woman’s family, the case, upon the woman’s consent, should initially be referred to a council for reconciliation in accordance with relevant laws. This process aims for peaceful dispute resolution. (The state-run ISNA news agency, February 15, 2023)
In essence, this law doesn’t support women facing violence from their husbands, fathers, or relatives up to the second degree. Instead, it mandates returning them to the crime scene for “peace and reconciliation.”
Even if the bill supposedly aims to address violence resulting in physical harm, it comes across as insincere after the tragic death of victims. For instance, Romina Ashrafi, a 14-year-old girl killed by her father on May 21, 2020, pleaded in court that returning home would lead to her death. Despite this, the judge disregarded her concerns and forced her back, a story emblematic of many Iranian women and girls’ experiences.
Furthermore, while Article 13’s note in the bill suggests welfare workers can intervene in severe and immediate danger, it lacks clarification on what constitutes such danger or the conditions for intervention. This is compounded by the scarcity of safe houses for women in Iran, leaving many unaware of their existence and facing limited options in distressing situations.
Pervasive Honor Killings Ongoing Across All Iranian Provinces
The prevalence of honor killings across all provinces of Iran prompted the need for a law safeguarding women’s security. These killings often go unpunished, particularly when the perpetrator, usually the father, is considered the guardian of the daughter’s life under the regime’s penal law. This leniency disregards the severity of the crime and denies justice.
Notably, Iranian women lack financial independence. Even if the victim’s mother or other female relatives manage to secure legal representation, many opt for silence due to fear of reprisal and further violence.
Article 29 of Chapter 4 in the new bill specifies penalties for intentional murder. If the murder lacks retribution and premeditation, it incurs a third-degree imprisonment of 10 to 15 years, and otherwise, a fourth-degree imprisonment of 5 to 10 years. This contrasts starkly with the regime’s law, where the punishment for murder is death.
In recent years, instances like Romina Ashrafi’s father and Mona Heydari’s husband serve as examples. They were imprisoned for a brief period and had the means to secure shorter sentences, potentially obtaining early release easily.
Mona Heydari, 17, with a child, was beheaded by her husband. He then paraded in the streets of Ahvaz while holding Mona’s head and the knife with which he beheaded her.
Addressing Responsibility for Forced Marriage of Girls
Forced marriage stands as a glaring example of violence against girls, yet this bill lacks a precise definition of such coercion. Article 34 addresses forced marriage, stating that if a girl’s guardian compels her into marriage, imprisonment and a fine will be imposed.
However, the bill “Preventing Injury of Women and Improving Their Security Against Misbehavior” fails to clarify the consequences of such marriages or whether they will be annulled and declared illegal. Moreover, if a girl is coerced into marriage at a young age, say 13 or 14, can she legally file a complaint against her guardian?
Most forced and child marriages occur without legal registration, complicating matters further. Within the patriarchal system, how can a young girl oppose the decisions of her father, brother, and other male family members regarding her marriage? This question highlights the power dynamics at play, making it challenging for young girls to resist such impositions.
The rape of children under the guise of marriage is condoned by the Mullahs’ laws, especially considering Article 104 of the Civil Code. This article permits the marriage of girls under 13 with court permission, guardian consent, and alignment with ‘expediency.’ Essentially, this law entrusts decisions about marriages involving girls under 13 to the discretion of the father or judge. Consequently, despite a bill acknowledging violence against girls and women, the existence of such clauses fails to rectify the legal loopholes perpetuated by the country’s civil law.
A political bluff
The Mullahs’ misogynistic regime lacks genuine intent to curb violence against women. The rising number of femicides in Iran highlights the inefficacy of this bill, signaling a worsening situation for women.
The bill “Preventing Injury of Women and Improving Their Security Against Misbehavior” fails to acknowledge women’s autonomy beyond the confines of the family. According to misogynistic mullahs, women’s security is synonymous with family security.
Addressing social issues like violence against women necessitates fundamental changes: recognizing women’s rights as equal to men’s and revising laws that perpetuate male dominance. Instead, misogynist legislators subject women to violence, and if they protest, they face punishments significantly lighter than standard penal laws.
Despite the regime’s misogynist legal system, courageous Iranian women persist in challenging it. They are determined to secure their rights by toppling this regime, evident in the scenes of women’s rebellion and protest during every uprising.