(Beirut) - Iran should stop infringing on women's rights and take immediate steps to meet Iranian women's demands for full equality, Human Rights Watch said today. Iranian women's rights activists have issued a call for freedom and gender equality in Iran in connection with International Women's Rights Day on March 8.
Their campaign, Call for Solidarity: Freedom and Gender Equality in Iran, seeks an end to state-led violence and other forms of repression directed against both men and women. On January 10, 2010, for example, more than 30 women were beaten at a weekly vigil in Tehran. The women were seeking news of their sons and daughters who had been detained during the protests following the June 2009 presidential elections. This campaign calls on the authorities to immediately release all political detainees, including many women's rights activists.
"This initiative of Iranian women's rights activists is crucial to the overall struggle for democracy in Iran," said Nadya Khalife, women's rights researcher for the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch. "It is also a tribute to the strength of women, who continue to demand their rights and support fellow citizens in the toughest of times."
For more than 30 years, the women's rights movement has been at the forefront in the struggle for human rights and gender equality in Iran, Human Rights Watch said. Iranian women have been subjected to a range of discriminatory laws and practices, often under the guise of enforcing Islamic law.
As an example, the Legal and Judicial Commission of the Islamic Consultative Assembly of the Parliament is pressing for passage of a Family Support Bill, including an amendment that would legalize polygamy. Under the proposed measure, a husband could take a new wife if his wife is diagnosed with a terminal illness, is away from home for six months, or even if she is imprisoned for a bounced check.
"Iranian women have bravely sought over and over to end gender-based discrimination, only to be met with threats, arrests, and imprisonment of activists," Khalife said. "Human Rights Watch calls on the Iranian government to allow women's rights groups to operate freely, without harassment, or worse."
In February, Human Rights Watch released a report, "The Islamic Republic at 31: Post-Election Abuses Show Serious Human Rights Crisis," which documents widespread human rights violations including extra-judicial killings, rape and torture in detention, and extensive violations of the right to freedom of assembly and expression since the disputed presidential election June 12.