Iran Despite Its Record Receives Top Seat on UN Women

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Iran received a top seat the UN Women, despite its deplorable record in its violation of women’s rights. This decision has come under criticism, and rightly so by several groups and individuals, including U.S. Ambassador Samantha Powers who stated that she was “extremely disappointed” with the outcome. Iran will begin its three-year term in January 2016.

Iran, since the 1979 revolution, which saw the overthrow Shah’s regime, in favor of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamist fundamentalist regime, introduced its constitution based on Sharia Law, which is quite specific on its policy toward women. The nation has an archaically conservative stance of a woman’s role in society.

Women’s societal status

Article 21 of Iran’s constitution gives the parliament authority to ensure “women’s rights,” an obvious play on words which really implies restrictions. Under this article, the clergy is given the authority to decide all laws pertaining to women. This includes women being prohibited from running for president or attorney general, as amplified in article 115 and 162, respectively. Article 167 goes further to specify that if a woman is judged on a case where no specific law is to be found, then law will be administered based on the Fatwa, Islamic law.

Women as men’s property

There are several instances in Iran’s constitution which prohibit a woman from going anywhere or engaging in everyday activity without the permission of her husband. Article 18 of its constitution restricts a woman from applying for a passport without her husband’s permission. Article 105, lists the man as the head of the household and decides all matters pertaining to his wife or wives. In this article, it was decreed by the Council of Guardians that a woman cannot leave her home, even to attend her father’s funeral, without her husband’s consent. In article 1117, a husband may even forbid his wife to engage in any type of technical profession in which he deems may conflict with her role in family life or her character.

The woman’s body

Women are forbidden to be in public without the proper Islamic Hijab, which is the required dress code imposed under Sharia law. While men are allowed to wear short-sleeved shirts, or even a pair of shorts on the beach, women are required to cover every part of themselves, with the exception of the hands and face. The most commonly worn items are the roo-sari, which covers the hair and neck, the roo-push, a coat, which extends down to the knees, and a either a long dress or trousers. In addition, the feet and ankles are required to be covered. When around mosques or other holy sites, women are expected to wear the chador, a black cloth, which envelopes her entire person with the exception of the face. According to article 102, women who violate the Hijab law, which includes even exposed ankles, are subjected to 74 lashes.

Marriage and divorce

Men are allowed to marry up to four women, provided they can support them, and while their options include non-Muslim women, a woman must marry only a Muslim male. In several cases, men take on marriages to women who are as young as 13. The current president Hassan Rouhani married his own cousin who was 14, according to reports by Human Rights Watch (HRW).


Under Sharia law articles 102 and 114, adultery is punishable by death for both genders, but clearly stricter for women than for men. While men are buried up to their waist prior to being stoned, women are required to be buried up to the neck. While burying the female victim up to the neck removes the possibility of her trying to escape, if by chance she does, she is subject to execution in front of a firing squad. Men who try to escape, however, are relieved from further punishment. Despite its record of blatant gender-based discrimination, Iran received a top post on the organization UN Women

Monetary value

The monetary value or “dayeh” of a woman’s body in Iran is half that of a man, according to criminal law stated in article 300 of its the constitution. This involves other areas of Sharia law, including estate law, where a woman in only entitled to half the inheritance of a man’s. In 1998, a bill was introduced to grant women equal inheritance, but it was overwhelmingly rejected. Dayeh also applies in criminal law, where punitive damages inflicted on a woman are half of that of a man’s and compensatory law, where a woman can only be rewarded for half of the amount to that of a man. Moreover, women are not protected from domestic abuse.


The laws of dayeh in Iran extend in the health care system which segregates services for men and women. Since women’s healthcare services are allocated half the amount of money as men’s, this results in a shortage of resources for women, including professional providers and facilities. Women who are victims of domestic abuse must have their husband pay for treatment, and in several occasions are coerced by their husbands to agree to a many demands as a condition to payment.

Discriminatory policies against women are widespread in Middle Eastern and Islamic nations. Many of these countries are also members of UN Women, including Egypt, Pakistan, Sudan, Tajikistan, and Burkina Faso. Iran tries to defend itself by stating that women have more rights than those in Saudi Arabia, who in the past has also had a seat on UN Women. In Saudi Arabia, women are barred from attending university, holding public office, and driving. Women are granted these rights in Iran; in fact, 65 percent of all university students in Iran are women. This, however, is still a far cry from equality, or in many cases, respecting their dignity and rights, which are only allowed to be discussed among men.

The UN Women was created in 2010 for the purposes of gender equality, empowerment, and to bring attention to the world’s governments who discriminate based on gender. The fact that countries like Iran receive, let alone are allowed apply for, top posts in organizations like UN Women and the UN Human Rights Council, despite its deplorable records, creates a mockery of their missions and removes all aspects of seriousness from the UN itself.

By Bill Ades



Women’s Forum Against Fundamentalism in Iran

NBC News Today

UN Women

Photo by Amir Farshad Ebrahami – Flickr License

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