Groundbreaking Justice for Iran report: hijab laws systematically violate women’s rights in Iran

March 10, 2014

To mark International Women’s Day, Hivos partner Justice for Iran (JFI) has published a major report on history and politics of enforced hijab under the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Thirty-five Years of Forced Hijab: The Widespread and Systematic Violation of Women’s Rights in Iran points out that over the past ten years, more than 30,000 women have faced arrest throughout Iran due to hijab laws. Without a clear definition of hijab, Islamic Republic laws consider women who lack “Islamic veil” in “public” as criminal and punishable by imprisonment and fines.

Although Islamic Sharia laws deem hijab compulsory at age 9, Islamic Republic requires all girls to begin observing hijab laws at the outset of primary education at age 7. It also imposes hijab laws on women of all faiths and is used as a tool for segregation and imposition of a wide range of limitations on women.

These limitations, as documented in the JFI report, have deprived many women for 35 years of education, employment, driving, travelling by air, access to public medical services as well as cultural and recreational facilities because of their hijab, including instances involving arrest and other violations of the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child through impositions of hijab rules on girl children.

The report details how a high number of women also face detention and various forms of torture, including lashing, describing the process of arrest and prosecution of women based on the charge of improper Islamic hijab and unjust sentences.

However, it also highlights an important historical fact that despite 35 years of violent enforcement measures, Iranian women continue to resist hijab laws and through their daily struggles provide an example for women in other Muslim majority countries, in particular those in transition, to demand their rights and freedom.

Furthermore, despite many promises, there has been no tangible improvement since Mr. Rowhani took office.

“Thirty-five Years of Hijab” offers a number of recommendations and highlights the need for the international community to shine a spotlight on forced hijab as a symbol and means of imposing serious and systematic human rights violation on more than half of Iran’s population.

A Hivos partner since 2010, Justice for Iran is one of the few Iranian organisations that tackle sexual violence against women by the Iranian authorities head on. Specifically, it was established to eradicate the impunity and systematic practice by Iranian state officials of sexually abusing detained women to extract confessions. The organisation raises public awareness, demands accountability for women’s rights violations committed by the Iranian government and actively seeks to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.

Hivos supports JFI because its overall mission and objective is to strengthen, promote and defend women’s rights in the increasingly discriminatory and fundamentalist environment in Iran.