Iranwire – Under Islamic law, women in Iran do not have the same rights as men. This includes not having the right to choose the jobs, careers and professions they pursue.
IranWire reviewed three recent reports that discuss the jobs that are off limits to women, the reasons why, and how these restrictions are set out in jurisprudence.
Unsurprisingly, these articles read more like justifications in favor of a patriarchal society, and rely on stereotypical assumptions of “intrinsic female” characteristics including compassion and devotion to motherhood.
The first was an article in the latest issue of the quarterly journal Letter of Culture and Communication. The publication, which is affiliated with Imam Sadegh University, specifically examines a series of Islamic laws in Imamieh and Shia jurisprudence with particular reference to women’s limitations in the world of work.
Islamic laws are inextricably linked to and inform Iranian tradition and customs. With that has come a hindrance of women’s freedoms, including their freedom to choose career paths and play an active role in the shaping of modern Iran. The patriarchal and quasi-traditional system of Iranian society has served to intensify these prohibitions.
Women’s rights activists in Iran have repeatedly risen up against these unjust laws, traditions, and customs, calling for fundamental changes in the laws, social conditions and relationships that violate women’s rights.Among the demands these activists are fighting for are the right to choose what to wear, the right to the custody of a child, the right to divorce, the right to travel outside the country, the right to watch sporting events in stadiums. But these are just a few of the many rights that Islamic law has denied women.
Numerous men, raised in this specific ideological and cultural system, have played their part in actively excluding women from the job market, and have blatantly taken advantage of unjust laws to maintain their monopoly on the labor market.
Unsuitable Jobs for Women: Imam, Religious Authority, Judge
In its attempts to defend various Islamic laws that prevent women accessing certain jobs, the new issue of Letter of Culture and Communication presents what it describes as rational and moral arguments for these decisions. As part of this, it claims that “removing some responsibilities from women has not deprived them of their rights, but has instead taken into account their expediencies.”
One of the prohibitions set out in the article concerns women leading collective prayers and Friday, Fitr and Ghorban Eid prayers. The article outlines that religious rituals are performed by the imam, and that can only be a man. Women are not allowed to train or work as imams. Women are also banned from becoming religious authorities, and accordingly, sources of emulation. They are, as a result, not authorized to issue religious fatwas. Of course, it’s not just Shia Islam that enforces such limitations: they also exist for women living under Islamic laws from other branches of Islam.
Under Imamieh jurisprudence, women are only allowed to pursue legal positions up to an extent: women are forbidden from becoming judges, and the quarterly journal presents a number of documents in this regard, as well as the Islamic traditions that support the ban.
The question of women as judges is easily answered with references to “women’s sensibilities.” The journal article explains that women’s compassion and maternal feelings should not be applied to matters of punishment, criminal cases or criminal problems. The authors further claim that the practice of women serving in the judiciary not only has social consequences and harms, it is also incompatible with the spirits and emotions of women, and such a ban is a positive and valuable move to support women and their status.
On the same theme, the authors also defend the ban on government positions for women “because the presence of violent and corrupt people in these environments will expose them to more harm, resulting in decreased social and moral security for women.”
The article also raises the issue of competition or rivalry between husband and wife. If a woman holds a government job or sits on the judiciary, it will cause tensions between a husband and wife, damaging the empathy and understanding that their martial life provides.
Such anti-woman arguments can be seen in abundance in many legal, political and ideological texts and lectures of the last 40 years. Recently, they are also presented in an article entitled “Women’s employment in Imamieh jurisprudence,” published in the quarterly journal Jurisprudential Studies, which is affiliated with the Al-Mostafa Society.
Against the Institution of the Family
Like so many others, the article defends the ban on women taking on certain jobs. “There are two types of job restrictions for women in Iran: one is the prohibition of jobs on grounds of religion or national and security interests and respect for the special status women hold. Another is the restriction on a married woman from engaging in occupations that are not in the family’s interest.”
Regarding bans on grounds of national and security interests, the article says: “According to famous jurists and fatwas, one condition for employment in the judiciary is being a man. Women do not have the right to be judges, to hold responsibility for litigation and issue verdicts.”
The article further states: “According to Article 32 of the Army Law and Article 20 of the Revolutionary Guards Recruitment Regulations, women may be hired in small numbers, to be confined to medical and healthcare positions, and not in heavy jobs related to the use of weapons and the like.”
“Obviously, this restriction is due to the situation of women and the security interests of the country, and it does not constitute as discrimination in employment; heavy work is incompatible with the physical and mental condition of women,” the article continued.
The research also calls on Article 1117 of the Civil Code to support its argument, emphasizing that it gives a man the right in some cases to forbid his wife from employment. The code states: “A husband may forbid his wife from a profession or industry that is contrary to the interests of the family or to the dignity of himself or the wife.”
Yet another article published in affiliation with the Al-Mostafa Society entitled “Opportunities and Challenges of Women’s Employment from the Perspective of Jurisprudence” and published in 2016, concludes: “In the conflict between women’s work and more important and fundamental values, Islam’s view on the employment of women is unique and takes into consideration their duties as wives and mothers, and the fundamental values of the protection of women in the family and society.”
These articles, research, speeches, and anti-woman policies produced in the Islamic Republic are inspired by the laws of Islam and Shia Islam. For more than 40 years, they have ignored women’s rights in numerous domains: personal, family, and in society as a whole. Women’s rights activists have been challenging these laws and policies and will, without a doubt, continue.