Sunday , 21 April 2024

Explained: What is Iran’s Controversial Hijab and Chastity Law

Iranwire – “The violation of the Hijab and Chastity law carries a fine of three million tomans [$50]. This legislation is set to be ratified by the Guardian Council within three days and will be enforced after the [Persian] New Year.”

These comments, made on Friday, March 8, during a state TV show, mark Amir Hossein Bankipour’s first reply to his supporters in Isfahan, who have re-elected him to Parliament.

Bankipour, representing Isfahan in parliament, gained support from the voting minority by strongly supporting the “Youth of the Population Law” and the “Hijab and Chastity Bill.” 

Before diving into any analysis, it’s crucial to recognize the courage of Isfahan’s representative in announcing the approval of the Hijab and Chastity Bill in the Judicial Commission of the parliament.

Additionally, imposing a fine of three million tomans for not adhering to mandatory hijab, which is automatically deducted from bank accounts, highlights the severity of the consequences. It’s a third of a laborer’s monthly salary. 

This stance played a significant role in Bankipour’s recognition as the leading candidate from Isfahan during the recently concluded elections.

When Isfahan’s representative feels supported by voters, he sees it necessary to pass the Hijab and Chastity Bill.

Three days after this proclamation, has the Hijab and Chastity Bill been approved by the Guardian Council?

No, the Guardian Council has yet to endorse the parliament’s approval of the bill. The constitutionally mandated Council has the authority to reject any laws passed by the parliament and the power to approve or disqualify candidates running for election.

Last week, the parliament resubmitted the bill to the Guardian Council for the third time, addressing the objections raised by the Council to the parliament’s second resolution. This update was confirmed by Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, the representative from Bam

Ghazanfarabadi also secured the necessary votes in the parliamentary elections and will serve in the legislature for four years.

The Guardian Council’s spokesperson announced that the parliament’s resolution regarding the Hijab and Chastity Bill is currently under review. 

The Council will convey its decision within the next ten days at the latest, and if approved, the bill will be forwarded to the government by the parliament speaker for implementation.

However, should the Guardian Council reject the resolution for the third time, further action from parliament members will be required.

It was previously stated that it is against the law to alter articles approved by the Guardian Council, and representatives can only amend articles objected to by the Council.

However, the parliament has once again made amendments to some articles.

Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the parliament speaker, commented on this matter, affirming the parliament’s determination to pass the bill expeditiously. 

He highlighted several challenges, including prolonged scrutiny of the bill’s flaws in the judicial commission, delays in government responses regarding Article 75 (acceptance of financial burden), and the constitutional conflict arising from altering approved articles.

Ghalibaf clarified that, according to the Guardian Council’s stance, any changes to approved clauses are unlawful, and they did not condone the Parliament’s alterations to the Hijab and Chastity Bill’s approved articles.

In light of these developments, the manner and nature of the amendments made to the Hijab and Chastity Bill before its referral to the Guardian Council remains unclear.

The bill, presented to parliament on May 24 last year by Ebrahim Raisi’s government, outlines severe penalties for women who violate mandatory headscarf rules.

Non-compliance with the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code is deemed as “nudity.” 

Offenders could face fines, with the penalties being doubled if not paid within a month. They could also lose their jobs and be banned from social media activities for up to one year. 

Repeat offenders would face imprisonment for up to three years, as per the bill.

The Chastity and Hijab Bill has gained support from some officials of the Islamic Republic who consider the hijab as a “red line.” 

The controversial bill was drafted following months-long nationwide protests demanding more civil freedoms and women’s rights.

All women in Iran must conceal their hair with a headscarf and wear loose-fitting trousers under their coats while in public, but a growing number of Iranian women have appeared in public without head coverings. 

The Ministry of Interior has intensified implementation of the hijab law by deploying enforcers on the streets, imposing fines on women who refuse to wear a headscarf, confiscating their cars, and denying them government services.

Timeline of Approval of Hijab and Chastity Bill

On April 27, 2023, the judiciary approved the Hijab and Chastity Bill and forwarded it to the government.

After 24 days of judicial approval, on May 21, the government committee endorsed the bill comprising 15 articles. It was then presented to the parliament.

Parliament members, on August 13, 2023, agreed to discuss the Hijab and Chastity Bill under Article 85 of the Constitutional Law. 

This article allows the parliament to delegate the approval of certain plans and bills to specialized commissions. 

The representatives opted for the bill to be referred to the judicial and legal commission, where it could be discussed behind closed doors rather than openly on the parliament floor.

On September 20, 2023, the Parliament approved the report of the Judicial and Legal Commission on an urgent bill supporting the “culture of chastity and hijab” for a trial period of three years. 

The commission expanded the bill from 15 articles to 70 articles and 31 notes.

On September 24 that year, both the Guardian Council and the Supreme Supervisory Board of the Expediency Discernment Council rejected the Parliament’s resolution. 

They found the Hijab and Chastity Bill conflicting with Sharia, the Constitution, and the general policies of the Islamic Republic. 

After addressing the objections of the Guardian Council and the Expediency Discernment Council in early December, the MPs submitted the amended version of the Hijab and Chastity Bill of the Parliament to both the Guardian Council and the Expediency Discernment Council,

On December 12, the Supreme Supervisory Board of the Expediency Discernment Council did not deem the parliament’s bill contradictory to the general policies of the Islamic Republic and approved it.

Then, on December 25, the Guardian Council, emphasizing many objections, rejected the parliament’s bill for the second time.

Following the correction of objections, the representatives referred the resolution to the Guardian Council for the third time on March 8, 2024, which was International Women’s Day. 

The bill is currently being considered, and the Guardian Council’s opinion will be announced soon.

Criminalization of Defying to Wear Headscarf

According to the resolution of the Legal and Judicial Commission of the parliament, endorsed by the majority of representatives and referring to Article 85 of the Constitution, defying “adherence to Islamic attire” (which can be read as compulsory hijab) and violations of this law are slated to be criminal offenses, subject to penalties.

Various criminal examples are contained in the bill, including:

– “Promotion of nudity, indecency, lack of hijab, or inappropriate attire through media and organizations constitutes a crime, punishable by imprisonment and a fine” (Article 38).

– “Insulting the hijab and promoting nudity or indecency through social and online networks is a first-time offense, penalized by a fine, travel ban, internet activity restriction for six months to two years, and removal of offending content. Repeat offenses incur escalated fines and additional penalties” (Article 39).

– “Employment or advertising that promotes nudity or indecency is prohibited, with offenders facing a fine or ten times the cost of advertising. Repeat offenders receive doubled penalties.”

– “Promotion of nudity or indecency by online and other professionals results in fines, travel bans, internet activity restrictions, and content removal” (Article 41).

– “Nudity or improper attire by business owners and employees is punishable by fines and business profit deductions” (Article 41).

– “Tourism spots are considered business locations, subjecting officials, tour operators, and tour guides to penalties.”

– “Celebrities face fines, asset deductions, job deprivation, travel bans, internet activity restrictions, content removal, and cancellation of privileges.”

– “Importers, distributors, sellers, and designers of prohibited attire face fines or property value deductions” (Article 45).

– “Professors and educational institution employees promoting nudity or improper attire are dismissed and face imprisonment” (Article 46).

– “Vehicle drivers and passengers violating hijab standards risk fines, vehicle confiscation, and penalties” (Article 54).

The resolution reflects a broad criminalization of “public nudity and indecency,” extending to all individuals, including students. 

A three million toman fine is not the sole punishment, with heavier penalties reserved for celebrities and business owners.

The full resolution will be published after it is sent to the president following the Guardian Council’s approval.