Women Get the Short End of the Stick in Iran and Can't Even Protest

March 30, 2015


As if it weren’t bad enough. Iranian women face persistent systemic discrimination in terms of family law. New legislation being considered by Iran’s parliament is intended to roll back many of the gains women have made in the past decades and consign them to being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

And on top of that, if they dare to protest about the inequities they suffer, they are sentenced to long prison terms, to be served in prisons where unsanitary conditions and medical neglect can quickly undermine their health.

This is the fate of Bahareh Hedayat, an activist with The Campaign for Equality, a grassroots initiative, and a member of the Central Committee of the Office for the Consolidation of Unity, a national student body which has been active in calling for political reform and opposing human rights violations in recent years. She is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence in Evin Prison. She had been charged with a number of “offenses” including “interviews with foreign media,” “insulting the leader,” “insulting the president,” and “disrupting public order through participating in illegal gatherings.”

Bahareh Hedayat has already served half of her prison sentence and is therefore eligible to be paroled under Iranian law. But concerned human rights activists need to urge the Iranian government to release her now so that she can receive medical attention for her health conditions. Amnesty International and United4Iran have collaborated to create a petition calling for her immediate and unconditional release.

The situation for women has only gotten worse since Bahareh Hedayat’s arrest five years ago. As Amnesty International’s new report You Shall Procreate: Attacks on women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Iran details, Bill 446 currently being amended by the Parliament as per the recommendation of the Guardian Council and Bill 315, soon to be considered by Parliament, will result in the state interfering in women’s most intimate and personal decisions in the attempt to double Iran’s population. The human rights of women and girls would be violated and their autonomy greatly restricted if the bills become law. Among other provisions, women who have not had children will be disfavored in hiring decisions by employers and voluntary sterilization will be outlawed.

Iranian women already face enormous challenges. A recent spate of acid-throwing may have been encouraged by officials who have urged the enforcement of Iran’s dress code for women. Women who have protested the acid attacks have themselves been subject to arrest. Furthermore, Iranian girls can be subjected to early and/or forced marriages.

In addition to signing the petition calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Bahareh Hedayat, please take this easy post card action, calling for Iran’s Parliament to stop pushing through Bills 446 and 315. The Iranian government needs to respect the right of women to make the most basic decisions about their bodies and their families themselves.