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Hijab and Chastity Bill Fosters "National Division"

July 31, 2023
Mehrangiz Kar
5 min read
"This bill appears to instigate conflict and discord, potentially leading to national fragmentation, which can be even more dangerous than geographical fragmentation"
"This bill appears to instigate conflict and discord, potentially leading to national fragmentation, which can be even more dangerous than geographical fragmentation"

The administration of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has not only attempted "self-subversion" but has also tried to foster "national division" within Iran. One of the controversial actions taken by the government was the creation and swift approval of the "Hijab and Chastity Bill," which was sent to parliament and received the green light from the legislature's Judicial Committee with the assistance of some pressure groups. 

This bill appears to instigate conflict and discord, potentially leading to national fragmentation, which can be even more dangerous than geographical fragmentation.

National fragmentation, in this context, refers to the divisive lines drawn between different groups within the country, such as men and women, Muslims and non-Muslims. By forcing citizens to turn against each other, the bill disrupts social harmony and fosters insecurity among the population. 

This will have severe consequences as people may feel compelled to prioritize personal interests over the rights and security of others. For instance, individuals may be coerced into reporting on women who choose not to wear the compulsory hijab, which would lead to their unjust persecution by security agencies.

The repercussions of this bill have already shaken national unity, creating an atmosphere of tension and mistrust among the Iranian populace. The proposed law aims to incite conflict and control the population through fear and intimidation. 

It involves various governmental and non-governmental institutions that will violate basic human rights. Criminalization of disobeying hijab legislation, as supported by Ruhollah Khomeini and his associates, disregards the principles of human authenticity and equality that are fundamental to a just society.

Principle of the Personal Nature of Crime and Punishment

This principle prohibits any legislator, regardless of their school of thought or profession, from imposing punishment on a person based on the assumption that another citizen has committed the crime. 

However, in the bill, sellers of goods and services, taxi drivers, pharmacies and numerous other business owners will face punishment if a woman without hijab enters their business or taxi and is not immediately reported to the security forces.

Principle of Proportionality of Crime and Punishment

Under this principle, the legislator establishes punishments proportionate to the harm caused by a specific crime to others. Consequently, even if we were to accept the criminalization of not abiding by hijab laws, which is not a common practice, it remains important to recognize that a woman without a headscarf does not inflict financial or personal harm to others. As such, a severe punishment should not be imposed upon the violator of the law.

The notion that religious individuals feel disturbed by seeing women without hijab is an illusion that allows the legislature to unjustly impose significant financial fines and long-term prison sentences on those who protest against compulsory hijab rules.  However, such claims are baseless and serve as excuses to deprive women of their freedom to choose their attire.

Furthermore, the bill's provision establishing financial penalties and job suspensions for business owners, artists, media workers, celebrities and others, without considering people's rights, lacks legal validity. It violates the principle of proportionality, as the punishments are disproportionate to the supposed harm caused by their actions.

Principle of Comprehensiveness and Hindrance of Legal Definitions

This principle is neglected in the bill. Examples of violations of "hijab and chastity" rules are unexpectedly vague and ambiguous. The legislator has not provided a comprehensive definition of hijab, leaving room for confusion and uncertainty.

Additionally, the meanings of terms such as "nudity," "semi-naked," "tight," and "revealing clothes" are not clearly defined, raising questions about how these definitions will be interpreted and applied in practice. Moreover, it is concerning that judges, bailiffs and officials are granted the authority to subjectively use criminal definitions based on their personal preferences, leading to potential abuse of power. Overall, the definition of "bad clothing" remains quite vague and open to multiple interpretations. 

Principle of Territoriality of Laws and Lack of Inclusiveness

Contrary to the principle of territoriality, the bill mandates the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to participate in the establishment and fortification of global initiatives aimed at "defending family unity among nations."

This aspect of the bill reveals the interventionist policy of the Islamic Republic and represents another facet of the "exporting of the revolution" claim. It appears that the authors are ensnared in a self-conceited belief that they can wield influence by drafting agreements that oppose gender and sexual equality, ultimately reinforcing gender apartheid worldwide.

Principle of Adherence to International Rights Standards

Legislative institutions in countries violating this principle lose global credibility.

In the aftermath of the Mahsa Amini movement, Iranians have become highly sensitive to any attempts to undermine the Islamic Republic through infiltration and subversion. Both citizens within and outside the country closely follow the actions of the Islamic Republic's leaders, given the extensive scrutiny applied to Iranians' lifestyles and actions by the Basij, IRGC and other security institutions. This scrutiny aims to expose any falsehoods and excessive wealth, particularly when obtained through illicit financial means.

Leaving aside the legal principles governing legislation, the Iranian government's recent bill has failed to elicit the excitement and support of mourners during Ashura. It is evident to ordinary citizens that the bill's implementation is impractical and destined to fail. 

The issue of mandatory hijab has been a point of failure for the Islamic Republic since its inception and led to continuous conflicts with women. The government has employed various means to enforce mandatory hijab, but despite 44 years of efforts, it has faced significant resistance, especially from the Mahsa Amini movement.

This bill does not quell opposition to mandatory hijab; instead, it inadvertently alienates seemingly silent segments of society such as businessmen, business owners and employees of the service sector. The government's ongoing battle with opponents of mandatory hijab engulfs all sectors of production and trade, the press, cinema and more, intensifying anger and reinforcing the belief that the Islamic Republic must be ousted at any cost. The authors of the bill seem to have anticipated their government's short life and aim to sow division among the people.

Without a doubt, millions of women opposing mandatory hijab are aware of the hate literature that has been directed at them for decades. The approval of "hate laws governing gender apartheid" only strengthens their resolve. 

While these women will continue to fight for their rights, the tension in society is escalating. Women without hijab face increased security risks, and those with optional hijab, previously protected by civil activists, become even more vulnerable. 

Heightened vulnerability contributes to national division. The Raisi administration hopes to divert the nation's focus away from reconciliation and prosperity under a secular government.



Target: Reporters in Iran

July 31, 2023
Mana Neyestani
Target: Reporters in Iran