Iran’s Parliament Votes to Grant Women Equal Right to Divorce; Iranian Government May Legalize Brothels

Iran’s parliament recently approved a bill granting women the right to seek a divorce in court Ð a right women have not had since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The bill was approved Sunday by the 290-seat parliament. However, in order for the bill to become law it has to be approved by the Guardian Council, a hard line conservative force in Iran. While it is unlikely the bill will be passed by the Guardian Council, the fact that it passed the parliament is still considered a victory for both the reformist party and women because it will put pressure on conservative, Islamic leaders such as Ayatollah Khameini. “The bill is the beginning of the realization of part of a reform promise to improve women’s rights and change the male-dominated laws that have harmed Iranian women throughout history,” Iranian lawmaker and women’s rights advocate, Elaheh Koolaee, told the Associated Press. Since the 1997 election of the President Mohammad Khatami, women in Iran have gained greater freedoms such as the repeal of a ban on unmarried women studying abroad. However, women still lack essential rights such as being unable to work or travel without a husband’s permission and that their testimony in court is only worth half of a man’s. In a recent development that further oppresses women in Iran, two government agencies recently proposed legalizing brothels under the name “chastity houses” as a means to control prostitution. Tehran, the capital of Iran, has about 300,000 prostitutes out of a population of 12 million. Ayaltollah Muhammad Moussavi Bojnourdi, a religious leader, claims that these “chastity houses” will help eliminating prostitution. However, the Feminist Majority and other women’s rights advocates, clerics and politicians feel that these brothels will only further oppress women.


New York Times 8/27/02, 8/28/02; Associated Press 8/27/02

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