Independent UN experts expressed concern Friday over Iran’s proposed law that plans to toughen penalties for women who do not wear the veil in public, comparing it to “gender-based apartheid.”
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Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranian law has required all women to wear a veil covering the head and neck, and hiding the hair, in public places.
However, more and more Iranian women are appearing bareheaded in the streets, a trend which has increased with the protest movement triggered by the death in detention last September of Mahsa Amini, a young woman arrested for breaking the strict code clothing.
With a majority in power and in Parliament, the conservatives passionately defend the veil obligation. In May, the judiciary and the government proposed a bill called “Support for the culture of hijab and chastity” which suggests strengthening sanctions, particularly financial, against “any person removing their veil in public places or on the Internet”. But without going so far that she could be imprisoned.
“The bill could be described as a form of gender-based apartheid,” eight UN human rights experts said in a statement.
“The authorities appear to govern through systemic discrimination with the intention of forcing women and girls into total submission,” they added.
Experts, including the Special Rapporteur on Iran and members of the UN working group on discrimination against women and girls, say the bill, along with existing restrictions, are “discriminatory and may constitute persecution based on gender”.
“The bill also violates fundamental rights,” such as the right to participate in cultural life, the prohibition of gender-based discrimination and freedom of opinion and expression, according to experts, who are mandated by the UN Human Rights Council but do not speak on behalf of the organization.
They also criticize the bill’s use of several terms such as “nudity” and “lack of chastity” and call on authorities to reconsider the legislation and “guarantee the full enjoyment of human rights for all women and young people girls in Iran.