Draft Law to Protect Women in Iran

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Human Rights Watch made review of the draft law and spoke to five lawyers and the defenders of rights of women who had first-hand knowledge of the drafting procedure.

The draft law contains a numerous positive provisions, including the creation of a national inter-ministerial committee to strategize and coordinate government reactions to violence against women. It also compels ministries and government agencies to take action to help avert violence and aid women, including by creating special police units for such cases. It would also make restraining orders and a fund for supporting women.

However, the draft law does not fulfill worldwide standards. It defines violence against women in an extensive manner and criminalizes numerous types of violence but it does not criminalize certain forms of gender-based violence, such as child marriage and marital rape. It also does not change the limited and problematic definition of rape in the Penal Code, which absolutely keeps out the marital rape. In addition, the mandatory punishment for rape is the death penalty, which can discourage women from reporting rape.

The draft law also does not give definition of domestic violence. It sets out few crimes which has a violation of the right to privacy and other protected liberties, such as an illicit relationship proposal and motivating a woman to carry out an act in conflict to her chastity. While in Iranian law there is no clear legal definition of what consists of acts against chastity, judges have made interpretation to comprise it, and therefore criminalizes homosexual relationships.

The draft law comprises numerous positive provisions for strengthening prosecutions, including obliging enforcement agents and judicial authorities to accelerate an investigation of complaints. This is significant, said two interviewed lawyers who have represented women in domestic violence cases because law enforcement and prosecutors often mistakenly treat such cases as family disputes and not as crimes. The draft bill lays down that in cases where a father or husband is accused, authorities should send the case back for mediation for a month, returning the case to the judiciary if it does not get resolved. The United Nations ‘Handbook on Legislation on Violence against Women’ on Women states that mediation should be prohibited in all cases of violence against women and at all stages of the legal process, since mediation excludes cases from judicial review.