Cover of In the eye of the storm:  Women in post-revolutionary Iran

In the eye of the storm: Women in Post-revolutionary Iran

Ed. Mahnaz Afkhami and Erika Friedl


The status of women and female children in Iran: an update from the 1986 census, Akbar Aghajanian
p. 49
…It seems that while literacy is considered worthwhile by the government and the people for both males and females, higher education, especially in rural areas and for women, is not.

p. 52
……excess female child mortality is related to malnutrition resulting from discrimination in food distribution. Female children are fed a lower quantity and quality of the food available. This pattern of discrimination as practiced from early childhood on, and the surviving female children are socialized to accept and practice it throughout their lives. Hence, it can be expected that such discriminatory beliefs and practices are reflected in mothers' attitudes toward food distribution.

p. 58
The analysis of data in this paper suggests that a system of gender stratification is deeply rooted in the Iranian culture. Under conditions of economic depression and limited resources, it can be expected that the ingrained gender inequality will become even more rigid and more easily expressed than in times of plenty, and that discriminatory practices against women will reassert themselves, especially in the lower socioeconomic classes and in rural areas.

The Majles and Women's issues in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Haleh Esfandiari
p. 63
Since the establishment of the Islamic republic, regulations and legislation, including issues affecting women, have been enacted by a number of different bodies. From February 1979 until the first Majles convened in June 1980, all laws emanated from the Revolutionary Council, which ruled by decree. The Assembly of Experts sat between August and November 1979 and drafted the new Constitution, which was approved in a national referendum in December. Once the Majles convened, it took over from the Revolutionary Council the task of enacting legislation. At all times, Ayatollah Khomeini, as Iran's supreme leader, was deemed to have the authority to issue religious opinions and decrees which, for all practical purposes, had the effect of law. The reimposition of Islamic dress on women, for example, came as a result of a ruling by Khomeini.
The tide appeared to turn against women within days of the establishment of the new regime. There were no women in the Revolutionary Council or in the government of Mehdi Bazargan, whom Khomeini appointed the first prime minister of the Islamic republic. Women in the civil service who continued to work in senior decision-making positions across the watershed of the revolution were soon purged or given early retirement. In March 1979, Knomeini reimposed Islamic dress (hejab) on women working in government offices. Later this requirements was extended to all women. The Family Protection Law of 1967, which granted women the right to divorce, made polygyny very difficult, gave preference to mothers in child custody cases, and raised the age of marriage for girls and boys, was suspended on the strength of a decision issued by Ayatollah Khomeini's office.

Temporary marriage: an Islamic discourse on female sexuality in Iran, Shahla Haeri
p. 105
In the present form, temporary marriage is a form of contract in which a man (married or unmarried) and an unmarried woman (virgin, divorced, or widowed) agree, often privately and verbally, to marry each other for a limited period of time, varying anywhere from one hour to 99 years. The couple also agree on a specific amount of bride price, to be given to the woman. Unlike permanent marriage, temporary marriage does not oblige a husband to provide financial support for his temporary wife. A Shii Muslim man is allowed to make several contracts of temporary marriage at the same time, in addition to the four permanent wives legally allowed all Muslim men. Women, however, may not marry either temporary or permanently more than one man at a time.

p. 106
The Shii ulema perceive temporary marriage as distinct from prostitution, despite the structural similarities. For them, temporary marriage is legally sanctioned and religiously blessed, while prostitution is legally forbidden, religiously reprehensible, and therefore challenges the social order and the sectioned rules for the associations of sexes. Prostitution is viewed as detrimental to the society's general health and welfare by violating its ethics and ethos. On the contrary, the ulema argue that temporary marriage, while performing a similar sexual function, indicates obedience to the law and social order. Those who resort to it, therefore, are perceived to follow a divinely recommended way to satisfy "natural" urges. Not only is temporary marriage not considered immoral from a religious and legal perspective, it is actually considered to prevent corruption and prostitution.

p. 106-7
Despite attempts to revive temporary marriage in present-day Iran, it is still a marginal and stigmatized institution, associated with many conflicting moral values. Its practice has put religion and popular culture at odds. Whereas there is no religious restriction preventing virgin women from contracting a temporary marriage (and Mr. Rafsanjani's comments are in accord with the theological tradition here), popular culture demands that a woman be a virgin at the time of her first permanent marriage. While the more westernized and educated urban Iranians, particularly the clerics, view it as a divinely sanctioned and "rewarded" activity, preferable to the "decadent" western-style promiscuity and "free love".

p. 110
Most middle-class Iranian women perceived temporary marriage as degrading and a threat to the security and stability of the family. Many divorced lower-class women, however, perceived it, though not without ambivalence, as a way to escape their marginal, restrictive, and unfavorable status as either divorced or widowed women. Given the stigma attached to divorce, many of these women are not welcome back in their own natal families and often have nowhere to go. They are vulnerable and marginalized. Temporary marriage, therefore, provides them with some relief, with an "escape", as an informant put it. The motivation of many divorced women for engaging in this form of marriage is not so exclusively to find a source of economic support, as has been maintained by Shii juridical texts and in orthodox Shii circles, but a desire for love and affection, for human companionship which was lacking in their broken permanent marriages.

Sources of female power in Iran, Erika Friedl
p. 162
Mothers tend to use their children, especially their daughters, as sources of cheep labor and information about other people. Although mothers have no legal rights over their children beyond an early age under Islamic family laws, they find children easy to manipulate and cultivate as their supporters. And although stories of sons and daughters who neglect their aging mothers abound, every woman sees the work she does for her children as an investment in her future. Thus, in the absence of other possibilities to use work as a source of power, women in the Islamic Republic now more so than before can be expected to try to use their household duties and household resources, including children, in this way. Despite the hardships, having many children is viewed as one way-for many women the only way-to establish themselves as actors in their own rights.
Cross-ref Saayed about respecting old people in Islam

p. 165
Women in Iran have the right to vote. Yet although voting gives women a voice in political matters equal to men, not all women, especially not rural ones, consider it a source of power. A woman's vote is often regarded as her husband's or father's second vote: he will determine how she is to vote.
Similarly, women do not regard law and the courts as sources of power and rarely use them, even if in a particular instance the law would indeed be in their side. Involving the court in one's affairs is taken as a sign of failure of the informal, traditional, honorable ways of dealing with problems and thus is easily seen as shameful, especially for women. Furthermore, few women have the economic and strategic-assertive resources to go to court alone and plead their case, especially against a male relative.
For example, when in a small town a young woman's husband died, his relatives sent her back to her father without her two infant children. Although the law gave her the right to keep her children at least for a specific time, and although she missed her children badly and fell into serious depression, her father decided not to press the issue in court to avoid the embarrassment of a public fight. The woman felt completely unable to deal with the problem herself, especially over the objection of her father. For similar reasons, women who are denied their legal share of the inheritance by their brothers usually "pardon" it rather than face a court battle with them.
As mentioned before, politically correct demeanor helps a woman with professional aspirations. In this regard, one could say the government provides a script for women who want to attain power positions, be it as a school principal, a medical professional, an elected member of a village or town council, or an employee of an intelligence agency. In the last three instances, "successful" women use their government-bestowed powers against other women in the interest of the male dominants, thereby supporting women's domination. Thus, the government makes it possible for some women to advance individually without emancipation.

The legal status of women in the family in Iran, Sima Pakzad
p. 175
…In Islamic law polygyny is permitted only if the husband is able to be equally fair to all his wives. The Civil Code has designed the husband himself as the sole judge of whether he can be equally fair to two or more wives.

p. 177
…not only the father and the paternal grandfather have legal priority over the mother for the guardianship of the child, but also any other person who is appointed as the executor can supercede the mother, who is left without any authority in administering her child's estate, including the property that she herself might have given to her child. If the child does not have a legal guardian (that is, father, paternal grandfather or an guardian appointed by either of them), the Special Civil Tribunal shall, upon the recommendation of the public prosecutor, appoint an executor to administer the child's estate. The main difference between the court-appointed executor and the legal guardian is that the executor must perform his or her duties under the supervision of the public prosecutor and submit to him an annual fiscal report, whereas the legal guardian acts freely and independently in administering the child's estate. The mother of the child, if competent, has priority over others for becoming the executor of her child;' estate, provided that she has not remarried.