Women’s ‘Rights’ in Iran: 5 Laws That Will Appall You

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Women's rights are severely restricted in Iran. There are legal restrictions as well as heavily inculcated societal and cultural norms imposed on women.

Legally, the following laws apply to women in the Islamic Republic of Iran:

The husband is the head of the family, and his wife is legally bound to obey him. Article 1105 of the civil code states: “In relations between husband and wife, the position of the head of the family exclusively belongs to the husband."


A married woman cannot leave the country without her husband's permission.


A woman's testimony as a witness is worth half that of a man, in compliance with the sharia basis of the legal system.


In all public places, women must wear a hijab (headscarf) and loose fitting clothing (usually a chador, or loose coat, is required). Modesty requirements are enforced by the morality police.


Polygamy and temporary marriage are permitted for men (up to four wives are allowed, subject to certain restrictions), but not for women.


Women are frequently subject to honor killings. In cases where the father kills his daughter, he is not liable for the death penalty, but only for imprisonment. When someone is murdered, the family of the victim can forgive the murderer.

Morality Police

Modesty requirements are enforced by the morality police, comprised of volunteer members of the Basij militia who patrol the streets enforcing Islamic law in public spaces. The Basij also routinely detain young, unmarried women found “fraternizing” with men to whom they are unrelated.

President Rouhani recently asked the morality patrols to be more moderate in enforcing the hijab requirement. However, 195 members of the 230 member parliament demanded that the government enforce the sharia dress code fully.


My Stealthy Freedom

A Facebook page entitled “My Stealthy Freedom” was started by Iranian women who show themselves breaking free of the hijab. The women upload pictures of themselves on the page without their hijabs on. The pictures are mainly taken outside in defiance of the morality police and Iranian authorities.

The Case of Ghoncheh Ghavami

Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian citizen arrested and allegedly beaten for attempting to view a men’s volleyball game in Iran. Ghavami, 25, was sentenced to one year imprisonment by the Iranian authorities after being accused of "propagating against the ruling system."

She was originally detained in June, 2014, along with a group of women who were protesting an Iranian law which forbids women from watching men play volleyball. Ghavami was held for 126 days before the trail in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, partly in solitary confinement.

It was unclear whether or not those days will count towards her sentence.

She was released on bail in November of 2014 for health reasons pending an appeal and is currently under a two-year travel ban.

She has since been accused of having links to the opposition.

The Case of Reyhanneh Jabbari

Reyhanneh Jabbari was a 26-year old woman who was hanged in October 2014 for murder, after stabbing her would-be-rapist.

The Iranian regime refused to investigate claims that Jabbari had acted in self-defense and had not meant to kill her attacker. The execution sparked widespread international condemnation. 

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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