A new podcast in Iran helps women share stories of domestic violence and raises awareness about the lack of support systems in place for Iranian victims. The podcast is run by an Iranian woman who was herself a victim of domestic violence. In Iran, domestic violence is seen as a private issue, and victims are given little assistance. The creator of the podcast hopes it will help eradicate the stigma around victims voicing their stories of domestic violence publically.
The precise prevalence of domestic violence in Iran is currently unknown. The government has not released statistics on domestic violence since 2004 when it found that 2/3 of women in Iran had experienced it. Recent studies have estimated that this rate has remained steady, with between 66% and 70% of women in Iran having experienced domestic violence. According to the General Director of Counseling and Psychological Affairs at the Welfare Organization of Iran, the prevalence of domestic violence has tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Executive Director of U.N Women has called the global increase in violence against women during the pandemic a “shadow pandemic.”
Experts attribute this surge in cases to the fact that family members are living in close proximity for the majority of the day due to pandemic restrictions. The massive job losses caused by the pandemic have made many Iranian women more financially dependent on their husbands and have caused an economic strain in the household, leading to further violence. An increase in anxiety and fear due to COVID-19 has also been linked to the uptick in incidents.
Iran has taken some steps to combat domestic violence during COVID-19. The government sent a text message to all Iranians to raise awareness of domestic violence hotlines. Following the message, the number of calls to these hotlines doubled. However, Iran still has many laws that restrict women and prevent victims from gaining assistance.
Women have described being ignored by police when they report instances of domestic violence or being told by police to return to their abuser. Outrage over the murder of a 14-year-old girl by her father after she ran away from home with her boyfriend has sparked new interest in passing a bill protecting women from violence. However, the bill has not been seriously considered by the government since it was written almost 10 years ago and must pass a conservative parliament before being enacted.
Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, criticized the government’s meager response to domestic violence. “The Iranian authorities can take three months to arrest, sentence and execute an individual, but after seven years they still cannot pass legislation to protect women’s lives,” he stated.
Sources: BBC 8/4/20; Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal 5/17/18; Global Citizen 8/4/20; UN Women 4/6/20; Voice of America 5/1/20; Women’s Committee of Iran NCRI 4/12/20; Center for Human Rights in Iran 11/23/18; BBC 5/27/20