Amnesty International says that the Islamic Republic’s new “hijab and chastity” bill is a “despicable assault” on the human rights of Iranian women and girls that will “further entrench violence and discrimination” against them.
“This all-out assault is part of the authorities’ ongoing efforts to crush the spirit of resistance among those who dared to stand up against decades of oppression and inequality as part of the ‘Woman Life Freedom’ popular uprising,” Diana Eltahawy, the London-based human rights group’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement on September 21, a day after parliament passed legislation to impose further draconian penalties on women who do not wear a mandatory headscarf in public.
Equating unveiling to “nudity,” the proposed law would provide prison terms of up to 10 years for anyone defying the “degrading and discriminatory” compulsory veiling laws and would make “insulting or ridiculing the hijab” a criminal offense punishable by a prison sentence, travel ban and/or fine.
The draft legislation would also encourage ordinary people, businesses and pro-government vigilantes to enforce compulsory veiling and expand the powers and capabilities of intelligence and security bodies to further oppress “women and girls who claim their human rights to freedom of expression, religion, belief and bodily autonomy.”
“If approved by Iran’s Guardian Council, it will further exacerbate the already suffocating surveillance and policing of women’s bodies and require the Islamic Republic’s various political, security and administrative arms to obsessively observe compliance with compulsory veiling laws and control women’s and girls’ lives,” Eltahawy said.
Eltahawy urged the international community to “pursue legal pathways at the international level to hold Iranian officials accountable for ordering, planning and committing such widespread and systematic violations against women and girls.”
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.