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Women walk on a sidewalk in eastern Tehran, Iran.
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A Bill to Protect Women Against Gender-Based Violence Is Moving Forward in Iran


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Sexual violence not only threatens women’s health and well-being but negatively impacts society as a whole. The UN’s Global Goal 5 aims to end gender-based violence by 2030. You can join us and take action on this issue here.

Women’s rights activists in Iran have campaigned for a bill against gender-based violence for the past 16 years, and now the government is taking a stand on the issue. 

President Hassan Rouhani’s administration on Sunday passed a bill intended to help protect women against domestic and other forms of gender-based violence, according to Al Jazeera. 

Cabinet ministers approved the “Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence” bill, which was introduced during former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration in 2013.

The bill defines violence as “any behavior inflicted on women due to sexuality, vulnerable position, or type of relationship, and inflicts harm to their body, psyche, personality, and dignity, or restricts or deprives them of legal rights and freedoms,” according to Al Jazeera.

Judges finished reviewing the legislation in September 2019 and before it is implemented, parliament must review and approve it, and then it will go to the Guardian Council of jurists and religious experts.

“For decades, Iranian women have been waiting for comprehensive legislation to prevent violence against women and prosecute their abusers,” Tara Sepehri Far, Iran researcher at the organization Human Rights Watch, said in December. “With the growing national attention to this important issue, the law is long overdue, and parliament should not waste any time in adopting it.”

A large group of legal experts, judges, executives, and officials put in tireless work to put together the bill, according to Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iran’s vice president for women and family affairs.

The bill includes various guidelines for holding government organizations accountable. The legislation requires the judiciary to allocate resources to support violence survivors and educate judges and other judiciary staff on violence issues. The judiciary is also advised to launch a fund to support violence survivors and imprisoned women.

Another part of the bill encourages more broadcast programs that promote supporting women and preventing violence against women. 

The ministry of education is also expected to hold educational courses for students, teachers, and parents and work to identify students who are at risk of violence.

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The ministry of health would be required to increase medical and psychological services for women and train staff to be equipped to deal with women who are violence survivors. Law enforcement and correctional facilities will also be required to increase their efforts to support violence survivors. 

The bill’s finalization came after a year of high profile gender-based violence cases, the country launching its own #MeToo movement in September, and a worldwide uptick in domestic violence as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A national study conducted in 2014 found that 66% of married women who participated had experienced domestic violence at least once in their lives, and 30% of them had experienced physical violence. 

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While women’s rights activists applauded Iran’s new bill for engaging the government in women’s issues, Human Rights Watch pointed out that it does not meet international standards. The bill does not criminalize some forms of gender-based violence, including marital rape and child marriage. 

The organization is urging Iran’s government to address the gaps in the new bill and adopt it to further protect women and girls against violence in the country.