Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Pro-Democracy Opposition Since 1979


Iran's women rights activists
‌ ‌Boroumand Foundation
June 12, 2005

12 June 2005

"Democracy can not be achieved without liberty and equal and human rights for women"*

We the organizers of this meeting deeply believe in the above mentioned notion. We have no doubt that if the demands of diverse groups of women belonging to different social classes, religions and ethnic minorities are met, all sectors of society would benefit from it. It is true that women's demand cannot be confined to legal rights, however at present moment the demand of equal and human rights is the axis that brings us all together and gives shape to the solidarity movement of the Iranian women. Trying to bring about legal changes, civil rights and women's rights of citizenship helps enlarge the tiny framework of the constitution and makes possible other changes, meaning a more appropriate economic condition for all and a real right of choice for each one of us. This is the broad horizon we are to persuade stage by stage.

In a situation where in addition to unwritten barriers, civil rights and women's right of citizenship is tramped in the shadow of the constitution; the rights of many social, religious, ethnic and intellectual groups of women is not acknowledged; any activity and movement aimed to change this disorderly condition faces many obstacles; structural changes of law should be considered as the precondition of any and all movements. [Even though] under the present circumstances, women's solidarity movement has been assembled to bring about large-scale legal changes, it in no way negates [the principle] that we can strive in other groups to achieve other demands of ours.

In our daily lives and social activities we struggle against discriminatory and patriarchal traditions and perceptions. We demand equal and human rights in order to have at our disposal legal leverages, legitimacy and power:

-To stand tall against forced marriages of little girls in different corners of this country.

-To struggle for mother's rights to take custody and parenting of her child.

-To prevent official and unofficial polygamy and oppressive divorces with no common consent.

-To broaden the right of maidens to chose their life style.

-To fight against the outlook who counts women as being half of men.

-To build safe houses without encountering legal obstacles, lessen violence against women and stop honor killings.

-To prevent women's immolation which is a product of deadlocks in their public and private lives.

-To demand social security and decent life and free services for all women; especially women of lower echelons.

-To institutionalize democracy and liberty.

-All in all, To spread, under the protection of progressive laws and human rights, women's consciousness and self belief through out the society (At least not to confront legal obstacles when spreading this consciousness). That is why we imply in our slogans that "legal equality is only the surface of our demands".

Yet all these demands have faced the impediment of the constitution whose perception of women is discriminatory .The constitution views women in no role other than family members and solely as mothers; mothers with no rights. In the Rights of the People, the present constitution speaks of "all individuals". But according to principle 98,the interpretation of this term (all individuals) throughout the constitution is the responsibility of the Council of Guardians. In the constitution's preamble too, the term woman is expounded as "being a mother" "fostering devout human beings". Consequently when principle21 attempts to stipulate obligations of the state towards women, it only depicts them as mothers or women without household heads, the "merited amongst these are bestowed the guardianship of their children" in the " absence of the Shari'a-ordained guardian (men of the family)". Principle 21 of the constitution indicates that" the state must ensure the rights of women in all respects in conformity with the Islamic criteria. Once again the obligations of the state in protecting women's rights indeed is referred to the interpretation of Islamic criteria. A specific interpretation of the Islamic criteria concerning women, appears in the Constitutions' preamble.

For years women tried to modify these interpretations and exert influence on the civil code; yet they always faced legal deadlocks, i.e. appointed (non elected) institutions who, according to the Constitution interpret laws. And it seems that as long as the execution of laws is dependant upon the interpretation of legally appointed authorities who exclude women from their ranks, women can never attain equal and human rights in any way. For instance women cannot interpret the term " rejal" in principle 115 of the constitution as they wish, [because the appointed authorities have interpreted the term as being a male person]. Same with principle 41of the constitution which stipulates that citizenship of the country of Iran is an indisputable right of "each Iranian individual"; yet, as the interpretation of such terms lies in an appointed institution who must see things confirm with Islamic criteria, the interpretation of "each Iranian individual" in laws concerning citizenship of the country excludes women or a section of women as their status is contingent on men. In fact all existing discriminatory laws of marriage, child custody, heritage, residence, employment, etc. are written into the constitution with the provision of " conformity with Islamic law". The exclusive right of interpreting this " criteria" too is granted to an appointed body. As such the existing hierarchy latent in the constitution by its very self, curbs the constitution much more than it actually is.

English Translation by ABF.