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.
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. Rape victims 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 or 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. Authorities considered abuse in the family a private matter and seldom discussed it publicly.
An August report by the CHRI referenced a study presented at the nongovernmental Imam Ali Foundation’s May conference in Tehran on violence against women in the country, according to which 32 percent of women in urban areas and 63 percent in rural areas had been victims of domestic violence. In March a government official was quoted saying that 11,000 cases of domestic abuse had been registered by the National Welfare Organization.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law 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.”
FGM was reportedly most common in Hormozgan Province and also practiced in Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and West Azerbaijan provinces. According to a Radio Farda report in February, 46 percent of women in Kermanshah Province and 31 percent in West Azerbaijan Province had undergone FGM. Traditional midwives were said to perform approximately 98 percent of the mutilations.
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 law reduces punitive measures for fathers and other family members who are convicted of murder or physically harming children in domestic violence or “honor killings.” 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 address this problem.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
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, and provisions in the law, particularly sections dealing with family and property law, discriminate against women.
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.
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 may enter into a limited-time civil and religious contract, which outlines the union’s conditions.
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 marriage contract; or is a drug addict, insane, or impotent. A husband is not required to cite a reason for divorcing his wife. The law recognizes a divorced woman’s right to part of shared property and to alimony. These laws were not always enforced.
The law 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 filing 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.
Women sometimes received disproportionate punishment for crimes such as adultery, including death sentences. Islamic law retains provisions that equate a woman’s testimony in a court of law to half that of a man’s and value a woman’s life as half that of a man’s. According to the law, the “diyeh” (blood money) paid in the death of a woman is half the amount paid in the death of a man, with the exception of car accident insurance payments.
Women have access to primary and advanced education. According to media reports during the year, women gaining admission to universities nationwide outnumbered men by 13 percent. Quotas and other restrictions nonetheless limited women’s admissions to certain fields and degree programs.
As UNSR Jahangir reported during the year, women’s participation in the job market remained as low as 16 percent. Women were said to earn 41 percent less than men for the same work. Unemployment among women in the country was twice as high as it was among men.
Women continued to face 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. Women must ride in a reserved section on public buses and enter some public buildings, universities, and airports through separate entrances.
The law provides that a woman who appears in public without appropriate attire, such as a cloth scarf veil (“hijab”) 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 attire” or of the related punishment, women were subjected to the opinions of various disciplinary and security force members, police, and judges.
February media reports stated that morality police beat and detained a 14-year-old girl for wearing ripped jeans. Authorities released the girl and her friends only after they signed pledges promising to dress modestly.
In September, according to media and reporting from human rights groups, women were barred from attending a World Cup qualifying match in Tehran between Iran and Syria. Female Syrian fans were present, and a protest outside Azadi stadium ensued.
As noted by the UNSR and other organizations, several Iranian female athletes were also barred from participating in international tournaments, either by the country’s sport agencies or by their husbands.
The ability of civil society organizations to fight for and protect women’s rights was significantly challenged by judicial harassment, intimidation, detention, and smear campaigns.
The country established the National Body on the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2012 to promote the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which it is a signatory. The body, which reviews draft regulations and legislation relating to children’s rights, is overseen by the Ministry of Justice.
The country last underwent a periodic panel review by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in January 2016. The review noted many concerns, including discrimination against girls; children with disabilities; unregistered, refugee, and migrant children; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) minors.
There is a separate juvenile court system. Male juvenile detainees were held in separate Rehabilitation Centers in most urban areas, but female juvenile detainees and male juvenile detainees in rural areas were held alongside adults in detention facilities, according to NGO reports presented to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Birth Registration: Only a child’s father conveys citizenship, regardless of the child’s country of birth or mother’s citizenship. Birth within the country’s borders does not confer citizenship, except when a child is born to unknown parents. The law requires that all births be registered within 15 days.
Education: Although primary schooling until age 11 is free and compulsory for all, media and other sources reported lower enrollment in rural areas, especially for girls.
In December 2016 Deputy Labor Minister Ahmad Meydari was quoted saying that 130,000 children had been left out of the country’s education system that year. A CHRI report in July noted that it was unclear whether the number cited by Meydari included children without Iranian citizenship. Children without state-issued identification cards are denied the right to education.
Child Abuse: There was little information available on how the government dealt with child abuse. The law states, “Any form of abuse of children and juveniles that causes physical, psychological, or moral harm and threatens their physical or mental health is prohibited,” and such crimes carry a maximum sentence of three months in confinement or 10 million rials ($275). The law does not directly address sexual molestation nor provide punishment for it. In March a government official stated that 12,000 cases of child abuse had been registered by the National Welfare Organization, but the time frame for the cases was not clear.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage for girls is 13, but girls as young as nine years old may be married with permission from the court and their fathers. In 2016 UNICEF reported that 17 percent of girls in the country were married before reaching age 18. NGOs reported that many families did not register underage marriages, indicating the number may be higher.
In her March 17 report, UNSR Jahangir cited statistics from the Tehran-based Association to Protect the Rights of Children, according to which 17 percent of all marriages in the country involved girls married to “old men.”
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The legal age requirements for consensual sex are the same as those for marriage, as sex outside of marriage is illegal. There are no specific laws regarding child sexual exploitation, with such crimes either falling under the category of child abuse or sexual crimes of adultery.
According to the CHRI, the legal ambiguity between child abuse and sexual molestation could lead to child sexual molestation cases being prosecuted under adultery law. While no separate provision exists for the rape of a child, the crime of rape, regardless of the victim’s age, is potentially punishable by death.
Displaced Children: There are thousands of Afghan refugee children in the country, many of whom were born in Iran but could not obtain identity documents. These children were often unable to attend schools or access basic government services and were vulnerable to labor exploitation and trafficking.
In its January 2016 report, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child noted continued “allegations of abuse and ill treatment of refugee and asylum-seeking children by police and security forces.” UNHCR stated that school enrollment among refugees was generally higher outside camps and settlements, where greater resources were available.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The law recognizes Jews as a religious minority and provides for their representation in parliament. According to the 2011 census, the Jewish community numbered approximately 8,700. Siamak Moreh Sedgh is the Jewish member of parliament. Officials continued to question the history of the Holocaust, and anti-Semitism remained a pervasive problem.
According to human rights organizations, unidentified assailants vandalized two synagogues in the city of Shiraz on December 24-25 (see the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/).
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law generally prohibits discrimination by government actors against persons with disabilities but does not apply to private actors. No information was available regarding authorities’ effectiveness in enforcing the law. The law prohibits those with visual, hearing, or speech disabilities from running for seats in parliament. While the law provides for government-funded vocational education for persons with disabilities, according to domestic news reports vocational centers were only located in urban areas and unable to meet the needs of the entire population.
The law provides for public accessibility to government-funded buildings, and new structures appeared to comply with these standards. There were efforts to increase the access of persons with disabilities to historical sites. Government buildings that predated existing accessibility standards remained largely inaccessible, and general building accessibility for persons with disabilities remained a problem. Persons with disabilities had limited access to informational, educational, and community activities.
ainstream children with disabilities into public schools.
Many persons with disabilities faced challenges in voting due to voting centers that lacked accessible features.
The constitution grants equal rights to all ethnic minorities, allowing minority languages to be used in the media. Article 101 of the Charter on Citizens’ Rights grants the right of citizens to learn, use, and teach their own languages and dialects. In practice, minorities did not enjoy equal rights, and the government consistently barred use of their languages in school as the language of instruction.
The government disproportionately targeted minority groups, including Kurds, Ahvazis, Azeris, and Baluchis, for arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, and physical abuse. In its January 2016 panel review on the country, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child reported “widespread discrimination against children of ethnic minorities,” as well as “reported targeted arrests, detentions, imprisonments, killings, torture, and executions against such groups by the law enforcement and judicial authorities.”
These ethnic minority groups reported political and socioeconomic discrimination, particularly in their access to economic aid, business licenses, university admissions, job opportunities, permission to publish books, and housing and land rights.
The law, which requires religious screening and allegiance to the concept of “velayat-e faqih,” not found in Sunni Islam, impaired the ability of Sunni (many of whom are also Baluch, Ahvazi, or Kurdish) to integrate into civic life and to work in certain fields.
Human rights organizations observed that the government’s application of the death penalty disproportionately affected ethnic minorities. In pretrial detention authorities reportedly repeatedly subjected members of minority ethnicities and religious groups to more severe physical punishment, including torture, than other prisoners, regardless of the type of crime for which authorities accused them.
Amnesty International reported on the forced disappearances of five Kurdish men on June 23-24. According to the report, Ramin Panahi, a member of the Komala armed opposition group, was arrested after taking part in an armed clash with the IRGC in Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province. IRGC guards then arrested Panahi’s brother and three other relatives, none of whom were reported to be involved with the armed clashes.
The estimated eight million ethnic Kurds in the country frequently campaigned for greater regional autonomy. The government continued to use the law to arrest and prosecute Kurds for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. The government reportedly banned Kurdish-language newspapers, journals, and books and punished publishers, journalists, and writers for opposing and criticizing government policies.
Authorities suppressed legitimate activities of Kurdish NGOs by denying them registration permits or bringing security charges against persons working with such organizations. Authorities did not prohibit the use of the Kurdish language in general.
Amnesty International reported that on May 12, authorities released Mohammad Sediq Kaboudvand from Evin Prison. The government originally arrested Kaboudvand in 2007 and sentenced him to 10 years in prison for “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the state.” According to the CHRI, authorities continually denied medical treatment or furlough to Kurdish women’s activist Zeinab Jalalian, despite her need for surgery. Jalalian was serving a life sentence for “enmity against God.”
International human rights observers, including the IHRDC, stated that the country’s estimated two million Ahvazi Arabs, representing 110 tribes, faced continued oppression and discrimination. Ahvazi rights activists reported the government continued to confiscate Ahvazi property to use for government development projects, refusing to recognize the paper deeds of the local population from the prerevolutionary era.
In June, 13 activists were reportedly arrested in Ahvaz as they gathered to celebrate Eid al-Fitr on the day before an annual protest for Arab ethnic rights. The activists had planned to walk to the homes of political prisoners and the families of those who have been unjustly executed. Officials also prevented the demonstrations planned for the next day, which had been held since 2005.
Ethnic Azeris, who numbered approximately 13 million, or 16 percent of the population, were more integrated into government and society than other ethnic minority groups and included the supreme leader. Azeris reported that the government discriminated against them by harassing Azeri activists or organizers, and changing Azeri geographic names.
According to a CHRI report in February, authorities arrested four Azeris and charged them with “forming an illegal group” and “assembly and collusion against national security” for peaceful activism on International Mother Language Day. Alireza Farshi was sentenced to 15 years in prison and two years in exile, while Akbar Azad, Behnam Sheikhi, and Hamid Manafi were sentenced to 10 years in prison and two years in exile. The activists were reportedly opposing a government ban on the teaching of Turkish alongside Persian in schools.
Local and international human rights groups alleged discrimination during the year against the Baluchi ethnic minority, estimated at between 1.5 and two million persons. Areas with large Baluchi populations were severely underdeveloped and had limited access to education, employment, health care, and housing, and Baluchi activists reported that more than 70 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.
According to activist reports, the law limited Sunni Baluchis’ employment opportunities and political participation. Activists reported that throughout the year, the government sent hundreds of Shia missionaries to areas with large Sunni Baluch populations to try to convert the local population. According to Baluchi rights activists, Baluchi journalists and human rights activists faced arbitrary arrest, physical abuse, and unfair trials.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, which is punishable by death, flogging, or a lesser punishment. The law does not distinguish between consensual and nonconsensual same sex intercourse, and NGOs reported this lack of clarity led to both the victim and the perpetrator being held criminally liable under the law in cases of assault. The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Security forces harassed, arrested, and detained individuals they suspected of being gay or transgender. In some cases security forces raided houses and monitored internet sites for information on LGBTI persons. Those accused of “sodomy” often faced summary trials, and evidentiary standards were not always met. Punishment for same-sex sexual activity between men was more severe than between women.
According to international and local media reports, on April 13 at least 30 men suspected of homosexual conduct were arrested by IRGC agents at a private party in Isfahan Province. The agents reportedly fired weapons and used electric Tasers during the raid. According to the Canadian-based nonprofit organization Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, those arrested were taken to Dastgerd Prison in Isfahan, where they were led to the prison yard and told they would be executed. The Iranian LGBTI activist group 6Rang noted that, following similar raids, those arrested and similarly charged were subjected to forced “anal” or “sodomy” tests and other degrading treatment and sexual insults.
The government censored all materials related to LGBTI issues. Authorities particularly blocked websites or content within sites that discussed LGBTI issues, including the censorship of Wikipedia pages defining LGBTI and other related topics. There were active, unregistered LGBTI NGOs in the country. Hate crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms did not exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes.
The law requires all male citizens over age 18 to serve in the military but exempts gay and transgender women, who are classified as having mental disorders. New military identity cards listed the subsection of the law dictating the exemption. According to 6Rang this practice identified the men as gay or transgender and put them at risk of physical abuse and discrimination.
The government provided transgender persons financial assistance in the form of grants of up to 45 million rials$1,240 and loans up to 55 million rials $1,500 to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Additionally, the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare required health insurers to cover the cost of such surgery. Individuals who undergo gender reassignment surgery may petition a court for new identity documents with corrected gender data, which the government reportedly provided efficiently and transparently. NGOs reported that authorities pressured LGBTI persons to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Despite government programs to treat and provide financial and other assistance to persons with HIV/AIDS, international news sources and organizations reported that individuals known to be infected with HIV/AIDS faced widespread societal discrimination. Individuals with HIV/AIDS, for example, continued to be denied employment as teachers.