Threatening Strike in Front of Majlis Building: Protests against a New Majlis Bill on Gender Discrimination
Monday 11 August 2008
By: Emad Vakili
The passage of the so-called "Family Protection Bill" by the legal and judicial commission of the eighth Majlis has raised the reaction of experts and women’s rights activists.
The bill was presented to the Majlis last year by the judiciary after being passed by the cabinet, but members of the seventh Majlis initially refused to bring the bill to the Majlis floor. However, the legal and judicial commission of the eights Majlis, in the second month of its inception, retrieved the bill from the archives and passed all portions of the unamended bill, to be considered on the full Majlis floor.
One of the controversial characteristics of this bill is that it makes it easier for men to seek multiple wives. The written approval of the first wife, a condition that has been a legal requirement for decadeds, is no longer necessary for men seeking multiple wives.
The bill was discussed last year in the cultural commission of the seventh Majlis and raised the protest of many, including reformists and female conservatives and deputies, written statement of two thousand supporters of equal rights, written statement of the Islamic Iran Participation Front [Jebhey-e Mosharekat], and one grand ayatollah (Ayatollah Sanei).
Shirin Ebadi identified the bill as sign of return to centuries ago and told in an interview with the website Change4Equality that she and her colleagues will stage a sit in at the Majlis building if the bill is considered on the Majlis floor. Shirin Ebadi said, "The new Family Protection Bill, does not only not help protect families, but actually move toward shaking the foundations of family. This bill scraps the precondition of first spouse’s approval for her husband to take a second or third spouse." Shirin Ebadi called on the Majlis leadership committee to prevent the bill from being considered on the Majlis floor.
Azar Mansouri, political deputy of the Islamic Iran Participation Front told ILNA news agency in an interview, “Article 23 of the administration’s proposal to the Majlis is not only a clear violation of women’s human rights, but also an indication of an exploitative view of women, because this Article looks at women like property, meaning that men who are richer can have multiple properties.”
Last year, protests against this bill, which is regarded by many experts as a step toward shaking foundations of family, was so much that according to Etemad newspaper, Jamshidi, the judiciary’s spokesperson asked the administration to delete Article 23 from the bill, because the judiciary’s version of the bill which was handed to the administration lacked the Article. Meanwhile, Moosa Ghorbani, member of the judicial and legal commission of Majlis called Article 23 “among the best in the bill,” adding, “Actually, Article 23 is the best Article, because it is [authored] based on Islamic and God’s principles.”
Article 25 of the bill, which deals with taxing women’s dowry (money that the husband promises to pay to his wife during marriage), also was very controversial. Azar Mansouri says, “imposing taxation on dowry is a kind of interference in an agreement between two parties and will not protect families. The increase in amounts of dowry is a response to inequalities that women face in our country and imposing taxes on dowry is not the answer to this problem. Such responses are not effective and will not have positive affects for society.
Secretary General of the Forward Thinking Women Society told the Aftab news agency, “That a law is passed enabling richer men to marry multiple women because of their wealth reminds us the traditional society of a thousand years back when men were able to marry as many women as possible. Today, conditions have changed and dealing with such issues is enabling men to fulfil their desires.”
Even Maryam Behrouzi, Secretary of the conservative “Zeinab Society” said in an interview with the Sarmaye daily that the recent bill is unfair to young men and will be a factor responsible for increasing age of marriage for the youth further than present levels.