Iranian lawmakers have passed legislation to toughen penalties for women who do not wear a mandatory headscarf in public.
The Chastity and Hijab bill was passed in parliament on September 20 – with 152 votes in favor, 34 against and seven abstentions – for a trial period of three years.
The draft law, which contains more than 70 articles, requires approval by the hardline Guardians Council.
After nationwide anti-establishment protests broke out last year, a growing number of Iranian women have refused to abide by the Islamic Republic’s dress code that requires head coverings and loose fitting trousers for women.
The demonstrations erupted after the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested by the morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly.
Under the Chastity and Hijab bill, women failing to wear a headscarf or appropriate clothing could be fined up to 8 million tomans ($150), with the fines 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, while repeat offenders would face prison terms of up to 10 years.
The bill envisions "special penalties for prominent individuals, as well as punishments for individuals who commit violations in both virtual and non-virtual spaces."
The Chastity and Hijab bill is supported by the Islamic Republic’s harliners who consider the hijab a "red line."
However, critics of the bill argue that it focuses on punitive measures, restricts personal freedoms and undermines women’s rights
They also say that it has many vague terms such as “nudity,” “indecency,” “lack of hijab” or “improper clothing” that would leave room for interpretation.
UN experts warned in September that the proposed law “could be described as a form of gender apartheid, as authorities appear to be governing through systemic discrimination with the intention of suppressing women and girls into total submission.”
“The draft law imposes severe punishments on women and girls for non-compliance which may lead to its violent enforcement,” they also said.
The controversial bill was drafted following months of widespread protests demanding more freedoms and women’s rights.
The authorities have closed down hundreds of businesses due to the failure of owners or managers to observe hijab rules, and taxi drivers have been fined for transporting women without headscarves.
Police and vigilantes issue warnings in subways, airports and other public places. Text messages have targeted drivers who had women without head coverings in their vehicles.