Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and subject to strict penalties, including death, but it remained a problem. The law considers sex within marriage consensual by definition and, therefore, does not address spousal rape, including in cases of forced marriage.
Cases of rape were difficult to document due to nonreporting. Most rape victims likely did not report the crime because they feared retaliation or punishment for having been raped, including charges of indecency, immoral behavior, or adultery, the last of which carries the death penalty. They also feared societal reprisal or ostracism. For a conviction of rape, the law requires four Muslim men or a combination of three men and two women, two men and four women, to have witnessed a rape. A woman or man found making a false accusation of rape is subject to 80 lashes.
The law does not prohibit domestic violence. The Census Bureau, the government agency responsible for data collection, does not permit international organizations to study domestic violence in the country. Authorities consider abuse in the family a private matter and seldom discussed it publicly.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The penal code criminalizes FGM/C and states “the cutting or removing of the two sides of female genitalia leads to “diyeh” (financial penalty or blood money) equal to half the full amount of “diyeh” for the woman’s life.” Whether there were prosecutions for FGM/C during the year is unknown. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child noted in its January periodic review that despite the criminalization of FGM/C, it continued to occur with impunity, especially in the provinces of Kurdistan, Western Azerbaijan, Kermanshah, Ilam, Lorestan, and Hormozgan. When the mutilation occurred, it was usually performed on girls under the age of 10. A March study on Kermanshah Province suggested that FGM/C was a common practice among women there, with more than 58 percent of girls circumcised; traditional midwives performed 98 percent of the mutilations at the mother’s request.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: There were no official reports of killings motivated by “honor” or other harmful traditional practices during the year, although human rights activists reported that such killings continued to occur, particularly among rural and tribal populations. The penal code reduces punitive measures for fathers and other family members who murder or physically harm children in domestic violence or “honor killings.” Under the law the principal of “qisas” (punishment in kind) does not apply to murders within the family committed by the father. If a man is found guilty of murdering his daughter, the punishment is between three and 10 years in prison rather than the normal death sentence or payment of “diyeh” for homicide cases.
Sexual Harassment: The law addresses sexual harassment in the context of physical contact between men and women and prohibits physical contact between unrelated men and women. There was no reliable data on the extent of sexual harassment, but women and human rights observers reported that sexual harassment was the norm in many workplaces. There were no known government efforts to combat and address this issue. The country’s state-run English language television channel, Press TV, suspended two executives in February after reports emerged they had been sexually harassing female staff.
Reproductive Rights: The law recognizes the basic right of married couples to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children. Couples are entitled to reproductive healthcare, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. While government healthcare previously included full free access to contraception and family planning for married couples, state family planning cuts in 2012 reducing the budget to almost zero remained in place.
Discrimination: The constitution provides for equal protection for women under the law in conformity with its interpretation of Islam. The government did not enforce the law, however, and provisions in the Islamic civil and penal codes, particularly sections dealing with family and property law, discriminate against women and restricted women’s economic, social, political, academic, and cultural rights.
Women may not transmit citizenship to their children or to a noncitizen spouse. The government does not recognize marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men, irrespective of their citizenship. The law states that a virgin woman or girl wishing to wed needs the consent of her father or grandfather or the court’s permission, even if she is over the age of 18.
The law permits a man to have as many as four wives and an unlimited number of “sigheh” (temporary wives), based on a Shia custom under which couples can enter into a limited time civil and religious contract, which outlines the union’s conditions. The law does not grant temporary wives and any resulting children rights associated with traditional marriage, but the contract is enforceable, and recognized children can obtain documentation and have limited rights.
A woman has the right to divorce if her husband signs a contract granting that right, cannot provide for his family, has violated the terms of their original marriage contract, or is a drug addict, insane, or impotent. A husband is not required to cite a reason for divorcing his wife. Traditional interpretations of Islamic law recognize a divorced woman’s right to part of shared property and to alimony. These laws were not always enforced, and the ability of a woman to seek divorce was limited. According to ISNA if a personal maintenance allowance is not paid, the wife may “reject all legal and religious obligations” to her husband. By law such an allowance may be requested during the marriage as well as after a divorce, and if it is not paid, the woman may sue her former husband in court.
The civil code provides divorced women preference in custody for children up to age seven, but fathers maintain legal guardianship rights over the child and must agree on many legal aspects of the child’s life (such as issuing travel documents, enrolling in school, or the filing of a police report). After the child reaches the age of seven, the father is granted custody unless he is proven unfit to care for the child. Courts determine custody in disputed cases. Once children reach the legal age of maturity, the court must also consider the preference of the child in determining the custody arrangement.
Women sometimes received disproportionate punishment for crimes such as adultery, including death sentences (see section 1.a.). The Islamic penal code retains provisions that value a woman’s testimony in a court of law as half that of a man’s, and a woman’s life as half that of a man’s. According to the penal code, the “diyeh” (blood money) paid in the death of a woman is half the amount of a death of a man, with the exception of car accident insurance payments.
According to 2012 UN statistics, the female youth literacy rate was 98.5 percent, and the adult female literacy rate was 90.3 percent. Women had access to primary and advanced education, although the percentage of female students entering universities decreased from 62 percent in 2007-2008 to 42 percent in the current year as a result gender-rationing policies implemented in 2012. Quotas and other restrictions, which varied across universities, limited women’s undergraduate admissions to certain fields, as well as to certain master’s and doctoral programs.
Social and legal constraints limited women’s professional opportunities, and the unemployment rate for women was nearly twice that for men. Women were represented in many fields, including in government and police forces but the law requires a married woman to obtain her husband’s permission to work. The law does not provide that women and men must be paid equally for equal work. According to a 2015 survey for the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, women earned on average 58 percent as much money as their male counterparts for similar work. Women may not serve in many high-level political positions or as judges, except as consultants or research judges without the power to impose sentences.
Women faced discrimination in home and property ownership, as well as access to financing. In cases of inheritance, male heirs receive twice the inheritance of their female counterparts. The government enforced gender segregation in many public spaces, including for patients during medical care, and prohibited women from mixing openly with unmarried men or men not related to them. In 2015 the deputy minister for sports announced women would be permitted to enter sports stadiums and attend some sporting events, but authorities did not implement the new policy. Women must ride in a reserved section on public buses and enter some public buildings, universities, and airports through separate entrances. While riding a bicycle is not legally a crime for women in Iran, religious and local authorities in Marivan, Kurdistan banned women from riding bicycles in public. International media reported that several women were arrested and forced to sign pledges that they would cease riding bicycles after being stopped by authorities on July 26.
The law provides that a woman who appears in public without appropriate attire, such as a cloth scarf veil (“hejab”) over the head and a long jacket (“manteau”), or a large full-length cloth covering (“chador”), may be sentenced to flogging and fined. Absent a clear legal definition of “appropriate covering” or of the punishment, women were subjected to the opinions of disciplinary forces, police, security forces, or judges. In September local media reported that police barred 800 shops from selling women’s clothing with controversial slogans like “I am queen” and “no rules.” Iranian media reported on the announcement of the expansion of Tehran’s morality police force to include 7,000 additional undercover agents to police “bad hejab.”