Women of Iran publicly mobilize against Iran's fundamentalist Constitution
The following text was received from
Please note Dr. Roya Toloui, an
individual signatory below, has been arrested since
Our Protest Against Violations of Women's Rights in the Iranian Constitution
After years of
protesting against discriminations between women and men in different spheres
(such as unequal legal rights), we, women are still deprived of our fundamental
rights. Among us, we may locate the roots of the violations of our rights
differently: In the laws, in sexist interpretations, in customs and traditions,
or in hierarchical and dominant structures in
Principle 20 of the Constitution states: "All citizens of the country, whether men or women, equally enjoy the protection of the law and enjoy all human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, in conformity with Islamic criteria." It is important to note that in this principle "all citizens, whether men or women," are considered equal not in terms of their "rights" but in terms of the "protection" that the law provides, based on Islamic criteria. Those who are endowed with the power to interpret maintain that they pursue a "balance" of differing rights and not "equal rights" between women and men. And this can be seen throughout the Constitution.
Principle 21 views women strictly as mothers or women without household heads. And the right they reserve under this definition of womanhood (motherhood) is the granting of child custody to deserving women in the absence of the "Sharia-ordained guardian" (men of the family).
The Constitution views women in no role other than mother, and as such, presupposes male leaders at the highest levels of political and social management. To run as a Presidential candidate, the qualification of being a political "rejal" is stipulated, which has been interpreted by higher authorities as being a male person.
Another problem with the existing Constitution as it relates to women (especially from the perspective of those who view violations of women's rights as a problem of sexist interpretations) is that all of its provisions are conditioned by dominant interpretations of Islamic principles. It has been the case that those who hold power are able to offer dominant interpretations and women, who are amongst the weakest social strata, can never offer alternative interpretations of any weight and influence. Needless to say, the depth and breadth of any interpretation is contingent upon the powers, opportunities, and institutions available to various groups in society. It is obvious that groups which hold exclusive military and security power, control culture and information and countless other resources, including the media, can impose their own interpretations on society.
The Constitution has reached a dead-end as it concerns women because the laws are not self-derived but rather, are open to official interpretation and dependent upon power-holders within the political structure and powerful official religious institutions. Women, who are considered the weakest link in society's power chain, cannot affect the necessary changes in the laws because the will of the citizenry (especially third-class citizens like women) is overshadowed by un-elected institutions, which hold interpretative power, as provided in the Constitution.
Even if the interpretation of official laws and individual and group rights were in the hands of elected institutions (as is the case in democratic countries), women, as a group with less access to power, would have great difficulty offering their own interpretations of women's rights to elected officials, let alone to un-elected appointed bodies. The more the relationship between un-elected state institutions and the citizenry is pyramid-structured and vertical, the more women and their rights are sidelined. And the more women will face an uphill battle to change conditions and laws to their favour in comparison to men.
Although the women's movement encompasses a wide and diverse spectrum of social, cultural, and political activists, at the current juncture, they suffer a common injury: belittlement of the citizen. The least of which was witnessed with the elimination of women candidates for the presidency. More gravely, the Constitution's belittlement of women as active social participants has blocked their ability to secure their rights. We are forced to seek justice and show our civil opposition at the current sensitive juncture by fulfilling our social and gendered responsibility. Undoubtedly, we need each other's assistance to make our voices clearer and our protests more effective.
Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani,
Marzieh Morteza Langeroudi,
Fariba Davoudi Mohajer,
Sanaz Allah Bedashti,