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Legalising suppression of women

By Elaheh Azimfar

Iran’s parliament has approved legislation, which aims to criminalize any act of creating hindrance in the implementation of the suppressive plan of “Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice”. Anyone believed to be creating obstacles can be arrested, tried and imprisoned or fined.

The Iranian regime does not care for human rights, especially of women. Since its inception in 1979, the regime has treated women as second-class citizens under the garb of religion. The fact is that the ideology, which the regime adheres to, is fundamentally sexist. The Iranian mullahs’ interpretation of religion and laws has no place in the 21st century since it refuses to recognize women as equal citizens or respect their inalienable rights as human beings.

The regime’s paramilitary Basij force and security personnel, who will have the authority to arrest anyone, may interpret “creating obstacles” as loosely as they like. An individual holding a placard to protest against the repressive plan may be arrested. An individual merely speaking in opposition against the plan can be accused and punished for “creating obstacles”.

But these are not legal lacunae missed by lawmakers, which will eventually be fixed once miscarriages of justice are highlighted as it happens in parliamentary and judicial systems in civilized countries. In fact, this is exactly what the legislation aims to achieve. Draconian laws and values will always invite opposition from the Iranian populace, which doesn’t share the regime’s worldview. In order to enforce implementation of unpopular laws, the regime must also outlaw opposition and dissent, which is essentially what it has done. A suppressive law is only successfully implemented with the aid of more suppression.

So-called moderate President Hassan Rouhani has done absolutely nothing to block anti-women legislation. In fact, the campaign against women and people in general has intensified under Rouhani. Hardliners in Iran’s parliament are also working on a bill that mainly has two issues at its core: enforcement of ‘proper’ hijab and availability of family planning and reproductive health services. If the bill is ratified, women will be deprived of necessary access to free birth control and reproductive health services. The mullahs’ undying fascination with issues pertaining to hijab and reproductive health care comes from their desire to exercise control over women’s bodies.

The regime aims to restrict and micromanage women’s role in the Iranian society. If they are ‘found guilty’ of violating hijab, they face “limitations and deprivations in relation to their careers, education, public services, and participation in cultural or recreational spaces”. Frequent and unwanted pregnancies and childbirths prevent them from becoming participating and equal members of the community, and most find themselves being forced to live as housewives against their many aspirations.

Elaheh Azimfar is a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran and the NCRI’s representative for international organizations.