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Iranian Women Need Legal Protection Against GBV

The murderer of Mona Heydari is the latest identified episode of the string of femicides traceable to ‘honor killings’, namely the murder of women by male relatives. ACHRS joins the call of other human rights groups and appeals to the Iranian authorities to maximise all efforts to make the fight against gender-based violence a priority in their agenda.

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The news about 17-years-old Ghazaleh Mona Heydari being brutally assassinated shocked Iranian society and brought attention to the inadequacy of current legislation regarding protection from gender-based violence in the country. The crime was carried out by Heydari’s husband who, after decapitating the minor, paraded her severed head in the streets of Ahvaz, in the Khuzestan province. Heydari, who was married off to her cousin at only 12 years of age, had tried to flee to Turkey, but had been brought back to Iran by relatives. The gruesome episode was recorded in videos taken by street cameras which were later posted online.

The murderer of Mona Heydari is the latest identified episode of the string of femicides traceable to ‘honor killings’, namely the murder of women by male relatives, who justify the murders by claiming that the women have dishonoured the family due to alleged moral wrongdoings – such as adultery, requests for divorce, or unfounded allegations of corrupting the family’s name.

In Khuzestan province alone, in the period between 2013 and 2017, 39% of murders were honour killings, BBC Persian reports. Currently, Iranian law allows families of victims to solicit for ‘qisas’; namely, a retribution that follows the concept of ‘eye for an eye’ which would eventually lead to the death sentence of the murderer. If families do not press charges – which often happens, as many times they are related to both the victim and the murderer, then the authorities can still persecute such crimes to up to 10 years in prison. Nevertheless, prosecutors and judges do not prioritise these cases, and frequently perpetrators only spend a couple of years in prison.

At the moment, the Iranian legal system does not foresee a law with an executive guarantee to protect women from gender-based violence in the country. The legislation on Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence was approved by the former government in January 2021, and it is now pending to be approved by the Parliament. The law would mark an important step forward for protection from gender-based violence: indeed, it criminalises violence against women, whether ‘physical or mental’, whilst obligating authorities to fast-track investigations for domestic violence complaints.

Also, it would establish a special police unit for enquiring such matters as well as setting up a fund to support survivors. Nevertheless, some clear shortcomings are present, such as failing to criminalise marital rape and child marriage. Moreover, the law does not supply a clear definition of domestic violence.

ACHRS joins the call of other human rights groups and appeals to the Iranian authorities to maximise all efforts to make the fight against gender-based violence a priority in their agenda. To do so, it is fundamental not only to approve the pending legislation, but also to reform the law by bringing it in line with international standards. Indeed, Iranian women have the right to a life free from oppression, and no traditional practice can be a justification for endangering the lives of more women and girls. ACHRS stands in solidarity with all Iranian women victims of such horrible crimes and strongly condemns patriarchal violence of any form.

Image Source: Iran Human Rights Monitor

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