The Cabinet of Iran approved a bill Sunday to bolster protections for women against violence in the country.
The Cabinet meeting saw the Council of Ministers approve the Protection, Dignity and Security of Women against Violence bill, moving the bill along the country’s law-making process. The bill defines violence as “any behaviour that is committed against a woman due to her gender or vulnerable position or type of relationship and causes harm or damage to her body or mind or personality, dignity or restriction or deprivation of her legal rights and freedoms,” a definition praised by the bill’s supporters. Vice President of Iran for Women and Family Affairs, Massoumeh Ebtekar, wrote in a tweet “[t]his progressive bill addresses both social [and] domestic violence, defines judicial [and] cross sectoral educative measures, defines criminal offenses [and] creates a supportive fund.”
A statement on the President of Iran’s website said that the bill is “for protection of women against violence in order to preserve their dignity and protect them from violence and strengthen the foundations of the family and protect its integrity.”
Cabinet’s approval of the bill is a move long-awaited. According to Human Rights Watch, “Iranian women’s rights activists have campaigned for such a law for 16 years and President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has been working on the draft law since the 2013 election.”
The bill’s approval comes at a critical time for women in Iran, for whom gender-based discrimination is rife. Despite being a United Nations (UN) member state, Iran is yet to sign the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979. Against international standards, married Iranian women’s freedom falls short of that afforded to Iranian men. Currently, women in the country are not protected from marital rape by the country’s criminal law; cannot have a passport issued without a husband’s written consent; can be barred from traveling by a husband; can be prevented from working certain jobs at a husband’s discretion; and are not entitled to equal inheritance, among other inequalities.
However, times are changing. The bill’s approval is part of a broader scheme from the country’s President Hassan Rouhani to shift the paradigm given that Rouhani “vowed to combat gender discrimination and ensure equal opportunities for women” when he first campaigned in the 2013 election.
To become law, the bill must next gain the Islamic Consultative Assembly’s approval and be vetted by the Guardian Council, a body that must approve all of the country’s new laws.