Women’s Rights in Iran

A Leave No Girl Behind Discussion: Human rights in Iran


A contribution to Leave No Girl Behind by Sahar (full name not used in the interest of safety)

In my country, according to the law, students study till a certain age but after that there is nothing to support the education of kids – people who are well-off send their kids to school thereafter, but poor people whose kids need to walk to school, or uneducated people, might not send their kids to school, but get them to work to help support the family instead – everything about education is related to the families.

The girl child’s situation is different. Women are hard working, but in the eyes of the law, they are not equal to men. Shariah laws apply in Iran. For girls to improve situation, they need to study and study. Before going to university, girls try to study more than boys and 70% of the university population consists of women. The government found this dangerous – educated women ask for their rights. Because of this, acceptance at university is limited for women eg. in the medicine department, unions only accept 30 % of women. I’m not optimistic about the future of girls because the law stops them. It’s the ideology not to allow girls to move forward – there are barriers in front of you such as forced marriage and pregnancy, barriers in the workplace, barriers with education. This is hard and challenging.

Women want to be in society, they are struggling to have their own job and also a family. Some parts of society’s women are working. That percentage is trying to be good in both their job and family, but it’s hard and they’re limited by the rules. If we want to stay in society, we have to fight for our rights – the government wants to stop women from working and wants them to be at home as housewives.

Women have the right to vote and to drive. But they need their husband’s permission to go outside the country. Polygamy is acceptable and a husband can have up to 4 wives. There is such a thing as a temporary marriage contract. Men and women decide they will remain married for a specific time and at the end of this time the contract automatically expires. Usually women from the lower socio-economic class will enter into this because it provides a form of financial security and protection, while men use this to explore sexuality. It is believed that this law is within the bounds of acceptable religious practice, but I believe that it is not a good law and should be removed. Women are also disadvantaged in that minor children fall under the guardianship of the father or paternal grandfather. There’s pressure on women in Iran to wear the hjijab because it’s considered obligatory – if women do not cover their hair, they are fined, charged or even arrested. It should be a woman’s right and personal choice to decide on her own clothes, not the government’s right!!

Because women are generally half of the population of any society it’s important for them to control their own lives. It is the right of any people in the world to decide their own lives – men, women, kids, young, old – and not to be dependent; not to considered someone who can’t decide.

If a woman wants to be independent, she needs her own economical support. This is a very important point – independence comes from our money. We need to make our own money. Our OWN money – not money from fathers, brothers, husbands. As a woman, if you face problems with your husband and want a divorce, you need money so you can be separate – you need to have your own job so that you can pay for a home, food, and have peace of mind. Many women don’t enjoy life with their husbands, but can’t separate because they have no money. Therefore they stay in their situations and are dependent on their husbands. Independence allows a woman to divorce, own a home, send her own kids to school. The main thing is not money in Iran – it’s rules and regulations, but having money makes it easier.

If you want to empower a society, the next generation, you should empower women – they have an important influence in society since they spend most of their time with their kids and generally women train kids and can help the kids better than men. If a society wants to go forward, to improve their situation politically and economically, they need women’s power. Women are needed in the workforce, so that they can make money, make a profit for that country. In democratic countries, women are powerful. They don’t have to ignore one role for another. They can work outside the home and have a family – they can do both roles at the same time. This is the huge difference between powerful countries and poor countries. In poor countries women are at home, while in powerful countries, men and women are both working outside, the results are better and the whole county benefits. If women are not empowered, they are useless.

Accepting change is not easy for many governments, totalitarian governments especially don’t like change. In my country it is challenging for women to force the government to hear their voices and demands. Many are arrested and in prison. The government tries to suppress strong women who object or complain about the situation, so it’s not easy. Our struggle is very peaceful, but the government is as hard as it can be – women are imprisoned, tortured, and pressure is put on their families outside. When the women are released, they find themselves in a bad condition in the country. The powers that be try to cut the roots – people who want to make change.

Six years ago, we women in Iran started a campaign for 1 million signatures – to collect 1 million signatures from women who are against unequal law and to give this to parliament and ask them to change the laws so women can benefit. But when this began, the government started to limit us through a lot of pressure and arrests. The campaign is still working but we need to think abut other options because these signatures won’t change anything.

I think first we should empower each other as women – study, go to university, read books, learn languages – we can do this for ourselves; no one will give it to us. We should educate ourselves. When we learn more, it’s easier to learn about other countries’ rules and cultures and see what we can implement in our country – which ones are good for our society. We can think about what we want.

There are different factors that help to improve the situation – first know what we want, then educate ourselves, unite, talk to each other and spread the word, talk about our problems together, find a way. We shouldn’t ask any other country to help and give money. We should talk to the government even if they won’t listen. They think we come from western society and freedom is not good for us; they want to decide for us. But we should find a way with the government, the president, parliament, newspapers, the media, facebook, and websites. Communication is the only way. Change is a long-term approach – we must not disappointed, but go on slowly and try to be effective.

Our main goal is for young women to know what they are, their gender and accept and be proud that they are girls, they have a bright future, there are lots of options in the future. I want them to know that the previous generations have tried to get equality for them. Maybe we weren’t too successful, but we should remember the previous women who fought and appreciate their effort.

There are always women in my country who think about others – I want the girls to be caring about others – have goals, to learn and to teach. I want them to continue this way until the day we can see equality, freedom, respect, democracy for all people in the world. I don’t want them to be selfish, I want them to be themselves – powerful people, not who others want them to be. The Feminist School was established to teach those who want to learn – to teach our students to be creative, to write about conditions, and about themselves.

If you want to improve a country, improve an education system in the country – to train a good generation, focus on girls – they are going to be the family, the next generation. The future of any country is related to the girls.

Sahar is an Iranian woman currently living in the UK. Her dream is to work with women to better their lives and situations by educating, helping, and empowering them. She believes in the infinite possibilities of a woman’s power to transform any country.