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Women in 2011-2012 reports: Iran

Following various human rights reports, it seems that in comparison with most other countries of the MENA region, Iranian women experience particularly serious discrimination both in law and in practice.

First of all, their political rights are very limited. Whereas since 1963 women have had the right to vote, they cannot become President and their right to run for parliament is restricted in practice, as the Guardian Council tends to disqualify the majority of female candidates.  In 2011 four women were ministers and eight women served in the Parliament.

Women’s rights activists have been consistently harassed and arbitrarily arrested, as illustrated by the case of those involved in the One Million Signatures Campaign (a campaign aimed at collecting one million signatures in support of changing discriminatory laws against women).


The laws in question relate mainly to the so-called “personal status”, the term covering such as areas as:

Iranian laws impose gender segregation in most public spaces, including for patients seeking medical care, and prohibit women from mixing openly with unmarried men or men not related to them. Women must ride in a reserved section on public buses and enter public buildings, universities, and airports through separate entrances. Some universities have been holding separate courses for male and female students. Grand Ayatollah Safi Golpaygani has been quoted saying “In the optimal situation, a woman will not see any other man except her husband.”

Moreover, Iranian law and custom impose a very strict dress code on women. The penal code provides that a woman who appears in public without an appropriate hijab can be sentenced to lashings and fined. However, in the absence of a clear legal definition of “appropriate hijab“, women have been subjected to the opinions of disciplinary forces or judges. Morality patrols have been deployed to control the respect for these rules by society.

At the same time state law provides for a very limited scope of protection against discrimination, violence and harassment:


Annual Report 2012 / Amnesty International.

World Report 2012: Iran / Human Rights Watch.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011: Iran / U.S. Department of State.

The text is one of the four summaries published on the same day by the Library of the European Parliament. See also:
Women in 2011–2012 reports: Egypt
Women in 2011–2012 reports: Tunisia

Women in 2011–2012 reports: Syria

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