A Summary Look at Iranian Women’s Social Status

The domain of women’s social rights in Iran is wide. Its vastest form can be seen in the Charter of Women’s Rights and Responsibilities in the Islamic republic of Iran enacted by Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution in ۲۰۰۴, in which a spectrum of issues including health, cultural rights, economic rights, political rights and Judicial rights are reserved for women.
23 January 2022
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Massoumeh Seif Afjei

 The domain of women’s social rights in Iran is wide. Its vastest form can be seen in the Charter of Women’s Rights and Responsibilities in the Islamic republic of Iran enacted by Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution in 2004, in which a spectrum of issues including health, cultural rights, economic rights, political rights and Judicial rights are reserved for women.

At the end of the post-reforms era, we witnessed a wave which considerably accompanied and coincided with the democratization wave. During this period, we witnessed that in the Development Program, allocation of 30% of administrative positions to women was enacted and the Administrative and Employment Organization of the Country required the administrative departments to increase women’s ratio in the administrative positions up to 30%. More importantly, over the two previous terms, whether in the parliament or in the Councils elections, the 30% share of women was accepted by the reformists.

In this paper, we do not try to address the legal dimensions of human rights or Judicial and Fiqhi subjects of the Iranian women, but we try to portray a picture of the Iranian women’s social status and political employment and compare these factors with a number of Asian and European countries(especially France) through the field research and experiences of these countries1. Although following the Islamic revolution of Iran there were heard numerous criticisms of the Iranian Women’s status in western media, but in this paper we try to have a realistic look at women’s rights in the Islamic republic of Iran.

There is a saying in psychology that:” each person must be compared with his past, not others’”. Accordingly, eastern and Asian women in Muslim countries must be compared with their past, not with the status of women in western societies. Therefore, for explaining the Iranian women’s status we can divide the subject into the two pre and post- Islamic revolution eras.

1-one of the points of importance for examination of Iranian women’s social status is not judging regarding their relations with men. The word ”feminist” is interpreted often as women’s anti-men view which is a mistaken interpretation and feminism is in support of women’s rights in a society .

Despite heavy propaganda concerning stronger Iranian women’s presence before the Islamic Revolution, it has to be reminded, due to the traditional and religious society of Iran, many girls were not encouraged by their families to continue their education at universities and undertake jobs before the revolution, the reason being the imposition of the surrounding environment and opposition to Hijab.

Despite the criticisms concerning observing Islamic Hijab in the post-Islamic Revolution, the positive aspects have to be paid attention to. In this between, paying attention to the percentage of girls’ presence at universities and the percentage of their employment along with social presence has to be considered.

In the 2000s a field comparison was conducted between the Iranian and Turkish girls’ attendance to universities as two Asian and Muslim countries2. This comparison was of importance because Turkey, at that time, was trying to adapt to the European standards before 20143 to join the EU.

In that time during which 60% of Iranian girls entered Iranian universities, in Turkey, only 17% of girls had obtained university and higher education, the reason being the religious roots of the Turkish society. In the 2000s in Turkey, despite declaring secular laws by the government, the Turkish families, due to religious matters, banned their girls from entering university which prohibited wearing Hijab in universities. This also was true of the Muslim communities residing in Europe, and due to prohibition of girls wearing Hijab in for example France universities, most Muslim girls in this country lacked higher education. This has led to contempt and lagging behind of the French Muslim community.

For example, the subject raised at the women conferences in France about the Iranian women is why the Iranian women are not in interaction and in line with their neighboring countries’ women? The answer to this question is clear-cut. The improving social status of Iranian women is not like the neighboring countries’ which has been dictated from outside to consider a quota for women. In Iran, this has been produced out of the internal social dynamics, the example of which being the decision of the government for the 30% increase of women’s share in administrative positions. The fact of Iran’s today is that the changes in the politics domain occur quite according to the domestic dynamics.

2-through a temporary mission of mine to Istanbul

3-this did not materialize

 The Iranian women, after the Islamic revolution, have overtaken women in the region and neighboring countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Persian Gulf Arab states, even Turkey and Tajikistan in all fields including in cultural fields( movies, art, annual participation at festivals, without being tool used) , winning sports fields, wining high ranks at scientific Olympiads, entrepreneurship, clothes design, interior architecture, writing, piloting, tour administration along with learning foreign languages, promotion to high diplomatic ranks at the Foreign Ministry, and so on. The same social progress of the Iranian women which has been ignored by the western media, as social opening for women’s presence in the Saudi society and facilitating women’s driving  is advertised as a major achievement in the Cultural Reforms and the 2030 Vision of Bin Salman, the prohibitions that for years have not been exercised over the Iranian women.

Another topic is addressing domestic violence. Despite all the social freedoms and the human rights movement which daily drive growth, improvement and equality of women’s rights with men in countries like France, domestic violence statistics are surging in this country. Violence that peaked during the house lockdowns due to coronavirus and forced the French government to announce emergency hotlines for women at home to call the police. Even the method of contacts had been planned in a way that the police asked the questions so that the women and girls who were home due to fear of the men beside them that might have hurt them more, would answer the questions by saying “Yes or No” , in order not to be harmed in the time the police were on their way.

Ms.Michele Andre4 , in-charge of Women’s Rights and former secretary of the government in Women’s rights in France, is of the opinion that men’s behavior in this country with domestic animals are by far better that their treatment of their partners. 92% of the battery in France takes place in cities and 60% of the complaints to the police come at nights. Based on the statistics of the Interior Ministry of France in 2020, some 102 women lost their lives due to domestic violence, most of whom between ages 18 and 40. Thus, the French government has declared 82% of the victims of domestic violence among women.

In Iran, a part of the public is not fully aware of the social status of women in other countries, especially in western countries, and its understanding of

4- until 2017

Europe is limited to the social platforms propaganda and this has inflicted great damages to them even in immigration.

 The matter important about Iran is that in the Islamic revolution slogans and in the views of the Supreme Leader of the revolution this issue has been outstanding that it is no longer the religion that is against women’s presence in society. The fact that occurred after the Islamic revolution is that the traditional families, families who do not belong to the modern part of society, do not block women’s’ presence in the name of religion, and the girls have found the opportunity to enter educational centers.

Over the 4 decades passed the Islamic revolution, we have witnessed huge changes in the area of health and education standards related to women, a part of which owing to change of views in the religious society of Iran which has created plenty of opportunities for women; but this does not mean that by mere raising of this view all historical barriers are removed. Historical phenomena do not fast-change. The Americans sent forces to Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban, but today are negotiating with the Taliban, because Taliban in Afghanistan is a social reality and a political presence; a phenomenon that cannot be ignored and the culture and roots of countries cannot be changed in the western style.

Scientific statistics and examinations show that in the Iranian parliamentary elections and Islamic Councils elections of cities and villages, there has been always a relatively balanced relation between the women running and the women elected. That is, the ratio of women nominated is the same as the women elected, compared to men. Along these lines, in recent years the foreign ministry too has seen openings and gradual removal of barriers in the way of the political rights of women. Therefore, this belief that women’s presence on political and social stages of society has been a token number must be overcome. The Iranian women must come to the belief that compared to their past they have had a progressing path.

Masoumeh Seif Afjaei, IPIS Institute

              (The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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