Sunday, September 09, 2007
Iran: Over 2000 Equal Rights Defenders Object to Proposed "Family Support" LegislationSunday 9 September 2007
Change for Equality: In a statement issued today, 2000 equal rights defenders have objected to the Family Support Legislation submitted to parliament by the executive branch, earlier this month. The statement asserts that while lawmakers have claimed that the Family Support Legislation intends to address shortcomings in the law and bring it up to date in accordance with the needs and realities of today’s family, it has in fact pushed back family legislation and the status of women by 42 years.
The statement reads: "at a time when Iranian society, more than ever before, insists on the adoption of just and humane laws, and while equal rights defenders are working collectively in the form of efforts such as the One Million Signatures Campaign, to change existing discriminatory and unequal laws, such as blood money, inheritance, and testimony and are seeking equality for women in their rights to divorce, child custody, nationality, travel abroad, and are demanding an abolishment of polygamy, not only does this proposed legislation not adhere to these demands, but reverses existing rights from women. This legislation has not only in its totality disregarded the dignity and humanity of women, but in Article 23 it proposes to eliminate a women’s say in her husbands right to take on a second wife, a right currently accorded to women by law. The proposed legislation in Article 23 shifts the final decision in cases of polygamy to a court and bases that decision at the discretion of the judge. The only requirement which men must meet in taking on multiple wives, based on this new legislation is financial and based on their ability to support more than one family. The condition of "justice", in cases of polygamy is also subject to the discretion of the court." The statement goes further to question how the court is to verify and prove that justice can actually be adhered to by a polygamous man, when the consecutive marriage is yet to take place and when no evidence of just or unjust treatment of wives can be proved.
The statement also claims that this legislation should aptly be named as the Male Support Legislation, instead of its current name, as in all its provisions it does nothing but seek to destabilize the family unit and promote desires on the part of some men to do as they see fit, without regard to how their actions impact their wives, families and others.
The statement also criticizes several other provisions in this proposed legislation, including a provision in article 25 which calls for the Ministry of Finance to specify a ceiling for dowry rates that must be adhered to by women entering into marriage. This article imposes a tax on dowries which exceed this official amount. The statement criticized this proposed provision, by claiming that "while women still have no rights to divorce and can no longer even object to their husband taking on a second wife, you are asking new wives to pay a tax to the government on a dowry which they may not have even collected or may never collect." The statement also condemns a provision in Article 2, which calls for the presence of three judges in family court and has not required these judges to be female, but rather states female judges should be present only if possible. The statement criticizes this provision on the basis that it does not provide a friendly environment for women to air their grievances, giving them a distinct disadvantage in family court. Further, the statement criticizes article 22 of this proposed legislation, which states that the official registration of temporary marriage or Sigheh is no longer necessary and postpones regulation of temporary marriage to a directive to be issued in the future by the Minister of Justice. The statement in this regard reads: "we don’t yet know what this directive will entail, but surely until its issuance we will be witness to increased numbers of women, who cannot legally prove that they have a husband and we will be witness to the birth and suffering of children resulting from temporary marriage, who will not be allowed to obtain birth certificates."
The statement goes on to claim that "unfortunately under the current legal system in our country, the human unit is a male unit, and women’s human and legal rights are assessed at half of men’s. These discriminatory laws have cast a shadow on our society and impact negatively women from different ethnic and religious groups, creating crisis and disrupting the foundation of family life, especially for women from lower socio-economic sectors. Despite all this, government officials instead of offering logical and just solutions for the improvement of the status quo, have proposed legislation which is inhumane in its treatment of women and offers men with power and the financial means to do so, the opportunity to take advantage of these inhumane practices….As if the current law, allowing for polygamy which is in and of itself humiliating for women, was not enough, government officials have decided to take up the task of making the situation worse for women. The news about this proposed legislation was indeed alarming and frightening for the public and especially for families, forcing all Iranian equal rights defenders to take a stand and to object."
In its final paragraph the statement boldly calls for the unconditional reversal of all discriminatory laws especially laws which allow for polygamy and temporary marriage. "We announce that should the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Parliament) not remove this proposed legislation from its agenda, we will be forced to employ more serious measures. Should this proposed legislation be introduced to the full parliament, without doubt we will make voice our demands for justice and our MPs will not get through the day, without our presence in [in the form of public protest] in front of the Parliament."
Earlier in the week a seminar was held by the public relations committee of the One Million Signatures Campaign to analyze the proposed Family Support legislation. Analysis was provided from a legal, social and psychological perspective. The speakers included, Ms. Farideh Gheyrat, lawyer, Ms. Nasrin Sotoodeh, lawyer, Dr. Shahla Ezazi, Sociologist and Dr. Shiva Dolatabadi, Psychologist, with panel chairs, Zohreh Arzani, lawyer, and Shahla Entesari, Social Worker. Without exception, all presenters found the proposed legislation and the practice of polygamy in particular as extremely damaging for families and for women. A special guest speaker also shared with participants her story and discussed the emotional and financial devastation she experienced when on her thirtieth anniversary she discovered that her husband had taken on a second wife 10 years earlier. This statement objecting to the proposed Family Support legislation was first read at this seminar. A report of this seminar will be translated and made available on this site in the future.