AFP: The UN's top official on women's rights chastised Iran on Sunday over what she said were abuses and discrimination built in to the Islamic Republic's laws.
"In the family, women face psychological, physical and sexual violence, and gender discrimination," said Yakin Erturk, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women.
AFP

TEHRAN - The UN's top official on women's rights chastised Iran on Sunday over what she said were abuses and discrimination built in to the Islamic Republic's laws.

"In the family, women face psychological, physical and sexual violence, and gender discrimination," said Yakin Erturk, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women.

She told a news conference that Iran's laws "do not provide protection for victims of domestic violence and make it difficult to escape violence through divorce," adding that suffering wives also faced "time-consuming judicial procedures and stigmatisation".

Women wishing to divorce can only demand one if they can prove their husband is either impotent, a drug addict, unable to provide for a family or living away from home for more than six months.

For men, divorce was often a simple procedure, although that was slowly changing.

"I am concerned that victims of rape face obstacles in seeking justice and if they cannot prove they have raped they face sentences," Erturk said, referring to cases where women complaining of rape run the risk of being charged for adultery.

Erturk, speaking at the end of a week-long visit at the invitation of the reformist government, also said she was "seriously concerned" over arbitary arrests, prolonged confinement and the "widespread practice of arrests for political views".

"The various forms of violence against women are underlined by a common element, namely the existence of discriminatory laws and malfunctions in the administration of justice", she said.

"Such a situation creates an environoment for a perpetrator to escape punishment," she added, appealing for the "correction" of discriminatory laws, judicial reforms and the abolition of the death penalty.

The official also said she had raised the case of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, who was killed in custody in July 2003 after taking pictures outside a prison.

"I have been assured the case is going to be properly investigated and the facts revealed to the public," Erturk said.

Between her arrest and her admission to hospital, Kazemi was interrogated by judicial prosecutors, the police and intelligence ministry, rival power centres in Iran that have since blamed each other for the death.

An intelligence ministry agent was cleared of "quasi-intentional murder" in July 2004, and the judiciary later said Kazemi's death seemed to have been accidental as "the only suspect" had been found not guilty.

The case has badly damaged relations between Iran and Canada. Iran does not recognise dual nationality and insists that Canada has no say in the matter.