With all the attention that the Iranian election protests are getting, some focus is being drawn to an incredibly important issue: women’s rights .
Right now, women in Iran are legally second-class citizens. An NPR segment talking about recent women’s protests said that women are considered one-half of men. A woman’s life is valued at half of a man’s and her testimony in court is only worth half of what a man’s is. This also means that women have less say in cases of inheritance, divorce and custody.
But Iranian women are sick of the inequality and they have been demonstrating. A few days before the election hundreds of women marched through Tehran protesting gender discrimination. Ever since the contest, women have been marching alongside men in droves to protest the results.
The feminist movement is nothing new, says journalist Roya Hakakian in an interview with Forbes. She left the country at 18 and hasn’t been back, but remembers the revolution of the late 1970s, and watched the women’s movement grow from afar through the 1990s. Hakakian said that Zahra Rahnavard, wife of the (allegedly) defeated presidential challenger Mir Hossein Moussavi, has been instrumental in rallying the most recent activity of Iranian feminists. CNN identified Rahnavard as ‘much-admired academic’ who wants to reform civil and family laws.
Ahmadinejad’s rule has been incredibly detrimental for women. He has promoted laws that would allow polygamy and tightened censorship to include information on women’s health issues. This means that an Iranian woman suffering from something like breast or uterine cancer can’t even look her condition up on Web MD, unless she has serious techie knowledge that would allow her to circumvent government blocks. He also instituted the idea of religious ‘temporary marriages’ basically allowing men to have sex with prostitutes without any consequences.
Some women are even removing their hijabs in public, something that is potentially very shocking for their more conservative countrymen. For a lot of women, the head covering is symbolic and many who would wear it voluntarily for religious or personal reasons are resentful that it is legally required.
In 2006 women started the One Million Signatures campaign, which is basically a massive countrywide pamphlet and petition campaign in response to a violent police attack on a pro-women’s rights demonstration in Tehran. They seek to approach Parliament with petitions containing a million signatures asking for better protection of women.
The female vote provided key support for Mir Hossein Moussavi, especially since the sexist Guardian Council banned dozens of women from running for president based on their gender. While Ahmadinejad’s continued rule of the country certainly won’t help Iranian feminism, some are saying that the sheer size of the protests indicate that there is a turning point on the horizon for women in Iran.
Women all over the world hope to see progress and change for the ladies of Iran. -Liza
(photo via www.payvand.com)