The rights of Iran’s women


A feminist initiative in Iran is seeking to ensure that awareness of women’s rights is on the agenda of the presidential election, says Nazenin Ansari.

You want our support? Support our bill of rights!” In the official political manoeuvrings around the Islamic Republic of Iran’s presidential elections to be held in June 2009, issues of women’s rights are increasingly taking centre-stage. A series of events highlights the trend.

The Guardian Council – the body that monitors and decides on the candidates allowed to stand in the election – made a ruling in April 2009 that opened the doors for women to run for the presidency; this cast down an earlier ruling that “women lack the intellectual capacity and understanding” to be candidates.

Moreover, Zahra Rahnavard – the wife of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Moussavi – is playing an increasingly prominent role in her husband’s campaign. As a result, a more progressive and forward-looking discourse on the issue of the status of women in Iran is emerging. At the same time, the parameters of the Islamic Republic’s constitution and the confines of the country’s patriarchal and sharia-derived legal code – significantly depart from international human-rights norms – limit the further development of this process.

The Iranian feminist movement, in seeking to circumvent these restrictions and sustain momentum, is now demanding a “bill of rights” for Iranian women. It has forged a broad coalition of women’s groups and feminist activists that will hold collective and peaceful actions urging presidential candidates to commit to two actions:

* actively pursue the unconditional ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw)

* advocate the elimination of discriminatory laws against women enshrined in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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