The present report contains the findings of the mission of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, to the Islamic Republic of Iran, which took place from 29 January to 6 February 2005. It starts with a review of the recent history of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the governance structure, human rights obligations of the State and the status of women, then continues with an examination of the incidents of violence against women and the impact of discriminatory laws and judiciary procedures in hindering women’s access to justice. The report concludes with a reflection on the prospects for a comprehensive judicial reform and identification of key measures and initiatives needed to ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of women and the elimination of violence against women.
Violence against women in the Islamic Republic of Iran is ingrained in gender inequality, which is upheld and perpetuated by two interrelated factors: (a) patriarchal values and attitudes based on male supremacy, and (b) State-promoted institutional structures based on gender-biased, hard-line interpretations of religious principles. While the former is a universal and historically rooted phenomenon, the latter is specific to the gender politics in the contemporary Islamic Republic of Iran. Both factors represent male-empowering values, laws and practices, making it difficult for women to escape public and private violence.
In recent years, some positive steps have been taken to elevate women’s status and eliminate violence against women. Additionally, the principle of equality is contained in the Constitution and Iran is party to the principal international human rights instruments. However, there are worrisome gaps in guaranteeing gender equality. Discriminatory provisions in both the Civil and Penal Codes, and flaws in the administration of justice disempower women and aggravate their vulnerability. Furthermore, the domestic application of the standards in place falls short of ensuring that women enjoy de jure and de facto equality.
In view of the existing challenges, the Special Rapporteur recommends that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran take action under four broad categories: (a) adopt and observe international human rights standards; (b) enhance women’s access to justice through a transparent legal and judicial reform; (c) prioritize the elimination of violence against women as a public policy issue to prevent, investigate and punish all acts of violence against women, whether perpetrated by private individuals or State actors; and (d) promote and support the empowerment of women in all spheres of life.