The news that television sports presenter Mehdi Tootoonchi had banned his wife, football star Nilufar Ardalan, from international travel has reignited the debate around the rights of married women in Iran. Civil activists spoke out against the ban, and people argued both sides of the debate on social media. Ashraf Gramizadegan, the head of President Rouhani’s Women’s and Family’s Legal Affairs office, is the most recent high-profile figure to speak on the matter.
As Ardalan prepared to travel to Malaysia for the Asian futsal [an indoor version of football] championships, news emerged that the 30-year-old halfback, also known as “Lady Goal,” had been removed from the team at her husband’s request.
“Women in governmental jobs have no problem and can travel with diplomatic passports,” she said, while at the same time acknowledging that under current Iranian law, other women were not automatically entitled to the same right. When getting married, she said, women must ensure the right to travel was included as part of their marriage contract with their husband. “If the husband accepts such a right at the moment of marriage, this permission will be in effect throughout their joint life together.”
Gramizadegan told Azad News Agency that proposals to give women and girls the right to travel abroad alone without the permission of their husband or father had been tabled during the sixth session of parliament (2000-2004), but politicians had voted against it. Since then, it had not been debated in parliament again, mainly because many politicians believe such a proposal went against Iran’s religious laws.
She also said there were many officials and politicians who believed that “there should be no ban whatsoever” on unmarried women travelling abroad, but that it was different for married women.
“There are no restrictions on travel for girls over 18 years old travelling abroad to study,” she said, adding that they did not need to present any documentation stating a father’s legal permission.
“But married women should obtain the consent of their husbands because in marriage, the wife should observe what her husband says.”
Nilufar Ardalan has stated her intention to follow up her own case with the women’s rights association. “The Asian championship matches are taking place for the first time. I was trained by Ms Soleymani [the head of the National Futsal Association] and was getting ready for the matches. But my husband did not give me my passport and I was obliged to step down from participating in the tournament.”
Nilufar added, “I wasn't going on a holiday. I was going to raise the Iranian flag during matches.”
Speaking about the controversy, lawyer Farideh Ebrat told ANA, “This is the law in our country and one cannot deviate from it. The only way is to change this law.” She told the agency she believed Nilufar Ardalan should “benefit from a similar type of permission” to that enjoyed by women with ministerial jobs or in other government positions.
Ebrat said civil activists and the electorate must raise the issues with MPs. “Under sharia law,” she said, “the wife must get her husband's permission for everything that she does; even for going out of the house. Therefore, it is up to religious scholars to find a legal and appropriate way to define the extent of such permission and the extent to which such permission can be ignored.”
Read the original article in Persian
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