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Beyond the veil – women in Iran continue to face discrimination in all areas of society, says new report

17 September 2019

The human rights environment for women in Iran continues to be characterized by inequality and exclusion in all areas of Iranian society, says a group of human rights organizations in a comprehensive new report.

Beyond the Veil: Discrimination against women in Iran by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and the Centre for Supporters of Human Rights delineates how Iranian women and girls face discrimination in all aspects of their lives, from participation in public life to access to education and employment, as well as in marriage and other family matters. In addition, the report highlights how the many ongoing efforts at reform within Iran have been obstructed, with recent protests by women activists against state repression being met by an escalation in official surveillance and intimidation.

‘President Rouhani’s repeated promises to improve the situation of women’s rights have rung hollow,’ says Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Chair of CSHR. ‘Instead, Iran has increased its repression of women human rights defenders. Women who have peacefully protested compulsory veiling laws have been attacked, detained and imprisoned.’

Perpetrators of violence against women, including police, have enjoyed a high level of impunity, demonstrators advocating for an end to the mandatory wearing of the hijab and other issues have faced physical attacks, detention and prosecution, with some high-profile activists handed lengthy sentences in prison.

Iran is one of just six UN member states that have not signed the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and its national legislation enshrines many barriers to accessing basic rights in areas such as employment, marriage and citizenship.

‘These issues are especially pronounced for minority women, who often face intersectional discrimination on account of their ethnic and religious identity,’ says Joshua Castellino, Executive Director of Minority Rights Group International (MRG). ‘For instance, while the gap in literacy rates between women and men has narrowed, girls from ethnic minorities remain particularly disadvantaged when it comes to education, not least because many of the provinces home to ethnic minorities are among Iran’s poorest and most marginalized.’

Despite certain advancements for gender equity in Iran in recent years, such as an amendment enabling women to pass on nationality at childbirth for the first time, continued resistance to equality by conservative forces has largely curtailed meaningful progress. Women’s rights were not a focus of the 2017 election, and Iran’s current Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has called gender equality ‘one of the biggest mistakes of Western thought’.

‘While Iran remains in the spotlight on account of deepening regional rivalries, the often-heated rhetoric means that the barriers facing Iranian women, especially those belonging to minorities are easily forgotten,’ notes Castellino. ‘This very detailed and timely report is intended to fill this gap and provide a thorough insight into the realities they face. We hope that it will help bring back into focus the human stories behind the headlines.’

The report concludes with a note to the member states of the United Nations, imploring it create a list of specific recommendations for women’s and girl’s rights during their Universal Periodic Review of Iran, scheduled for November of this year. It also recommends that states that have established bilateral human rights dialogues with Iran in the past continue to prioritize human rights and follow up on any women’s rights recommendations they might have already made.

Notes to editors

For more information or to arrange interviews contact:

Samrawit Gougsa, MRG Communications Officer (London, UK)
E: [email protected] / Twitter: @MinorityRights