November 25 was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, but for Iranian women that is still so far out of grasp. In fact, even officials admit that reports of violence against women have increased by at least 20 percent compared to previous years.
The problem is that, unlike most countries, Iran has not criminalized violence against women; rather it is promoted. Let’s look at the main types of this behavior.
Iranian Authorities Impose and Implement Forced-Veiling Rules
Women in Iran are denied the right to chose how they dress, even though the vast majority of people oppose compulsory hijab, but this isn’t even about the denial of this basic freedom. Rather it’s about the way women and girls who do not abide by this sexist dress code are treated.
There are over 27 institutions tasked with enforcing the compulsory hijab, with many women being beaten, stabbed, or attacked with acid by the officials for not wearing the hijab or even allowing it to slip accidentally.
Honor Killings Backed by Iran’s Misogynist Law
Hundreds of Iranian women are killed in “honor killings” each year, with the state-run ISNA news agency estimating the numbers to be “between 375 and 450,” which accounts for 20 percent of all murders in Iran.
This is systemic because the government condones it, with the Penal Code stating that fathers and paternal grandfathers cannot be sentenced to death for killing their child or grandchild. It even states outright that a husband can legally kill his wife on the spot if he catches her cheating on him.
Officials and Clerics Promote Early Marriages
Iranian girls can be married at 13, or nine with a judge’s approval. Recently, the Parliament (Majlis) has rejected bills to increase the marriage age to 16, which is violence against the most vulnerable.
Some 600,000 underage girls are married each year, including 234,000 involving girls under the age of 15. They are likely to be married to a much older man, forced to have sex early, get pregnant and give birth early, and be subjected to domestic violence.
Iranian Women and Girls Exposed to Domestic Violence
Iran doesn’t have a law to combat domestic violence and the Majlis has created numerous obstacles to joining the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which only four United Nations countries have not signed.
Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, many provinces have reported a 50 percent to 1000 percent increase in social emergency calls linked with domestic violence.
Systematic Harassment Against Women’s Rights Defenders in Iran
Women’s rights activists are significantly abused in Iran, receiving long-term prison sentences, which is followed by horrific systematic abuse in prisons that is designed to break the spirit of prisoners and deter other activists.
In one case, three female anti-hijab activists – Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi, and Mojgan Keshavarz – were given 55.5 years for failing to wear the Hijab, on the charges of “association and collusion against national security,” “disseminating propaganda against the state,” “encouraging and preparing the grounds for corruption and prostitution,” and “insulting the sanctities”. None of them received legal representation.
The Violence Against Women Bill
In September 2019, the Judiciary announced that it had approved a VAW bill after eight years but by the time this bill reached the government, its purpose was changed and it was stripped of all power and just doubles down on existing protections for those who abuse women.
“If the bill is passed, the situation for women will be significantly worse. The current bill eliminates the word violence against women and the parts that had addressed women’s security has either been omitted or changed somehow. As a result, the nature of the bill is totally lost,” said former MP from Tehran Parvaneh Salahshori.