Fact Check: Do Iranian Women Have the Same Opportunities to Hold Public Office as Men?
In Iran, women face many restrictions on their eligibility for public office. Discriminatory laws against women in political and social institutions are some of the main obstacles to an increase in women’s participation in politics. Despite such limitations, Ali Larijani, the Speaker of Majlis and a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, claims that the constitution of the Islamic Republic provides equal opportunity for women.
According to Larijani, “Based on the constitution, men and women have equal opportunities to hold public office. Women can participate in parliament and there are no obstacles for them to become a majority of representatives in Majlis.”
Women’s Representation in Politics
In the past two decades, women have improved their status in Iranian society. For example, nearly 70 percent of women get accepted to universities across Iran. However, during the ninth parliament, there were only nine female MPs, all of whom were associated with conservatives and other supporters of gender inequalities.
On the other hand, evidence suggests that even if Iran’s laws did not discriminate against women, patriarchy is prevalent across political and social institutions. For example, since the Islamic revolution of 1979, the Guardian Council has not qualified even a single woman to stand for election to the Assembly of Experts.
The underrepresentation of women in parliament is not a secret. Even though women account for half of Iran’s population, they are visibly underrepresented. The greatest representation of women in parliament occurred during the fifth Majlis, when there were fourteen female MPs.
A few years back, the low representation of women in parliament led to a plea from Ali Larijani for a strategy to increase the number of women in parliament.
Campaigns for Gender Equality
Since November 2015, women’s rights activists mounted a campaign to change the ‘male-dominant face’ of parliament. “50 chairs for women in favour of equality” was a call for reformists to mobilize efforts to increase women’s representation in parliament.
On the other hand, there is a great number of adversaries of such campaigns. For example, Keyhan newspaper has claimed that such efforts are part of a US- and UK-led strategy to influence Iran’s domestic politics, instead of a genuine domestic movement for gender equality.
In addition to this political opposition, discriminatory laws and an unfair governing structure – including the Guardian Council and the Assembly of Experts – prevent women from participating in a wide range of Iran’s social and political life.
During the Guardian Council’s review of candidate applications for election to the next parliament, many women were disqualified. Therefore, unfortunately, the participation of women in public office will be further reduced after the upcoming elections.
It is apparent that many elements of the constitution and civil law in Iran prevent men and women to be equal access to public office. This is why Majlis Monitor considers Speaker Larijani’s statement to be “false.”