Iranian women’s right to work is undermined by discriminatory laws

shuiranian women going to work
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Iranian laws and policies that discriminate women affect their right to work, according to a new report.

The report from Human Rights Watch, entitled “It’s a Men’s Club’: Discrimination Against Women in Iran’s Job Market,” found that due to the number of restrictions women face, such as their ability to travel, prohibitions on entering certain jobs, and a lack of basic legal protections, their right to work is hindered.

Despite women making up half of Iran’s university graduates, official statistics show that between March 2016 and March 2017, only 14.9 per cent of Iran’s women are in work – compared to 64.1 per cent of men.

This rate is also lower than the average of 20 per cent for all women in the Middle East and North Africa. The unemployment rate for women currently stands at 20.7 per cent, double that of men.

Laws within Iran make it hard for women to enter the workforce. The civil code considers the husband the head of the household, giving him control over his wife. This includes preventing her from going to work if he wishes.

One woman who spoke to Human Rights Watch said, “I am a woman who has invested so much time on education and can’t imagine myself without my profession.”

“By pressuring me to leave my job, my husband wants to take away part of my identity.”

Women also need their husband’s permission to obtain a passport, which some of the employers interviewed said would be a reason not to hire women for jobs that require extensive travel.

Although employers are not allowed to discriminate against women already in the workplace, these rights do not extend to new hires or promotions. Job vacancies can specify gender preferences, something that is common for technical or managerial jobs.

Those women who make it into the workforce are once again discriminated against through social security regulations. They are required to prove that their husband is unemployed or has a disability, or that she is the sole guardian for children before she can get equal or family benefits.

Speaking about the findings of the report, Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said, “Iranian women’s achievements in higher education demonstrate their capability and passion to be equal partners in building a better country, but discriminatory laws are holding them back.”

“Authorities have started to acknowledge these problems, but they should take the necessary steps to remove the barriers that are pushing women to the margins of the workforce.”

Continuing Whitson said, “Now that President Rouhani has been elected for the second term, he should make good on his promises of equality.”

“Giving Iran’s women the protection and equal rights they deserve is long overdue.”

Women in the workplace was something that Nazanin Daneshvar spoke strongly about at the 2017 Global Female Leaders summit.

Speaking of the attitude within Iran, she said, “Women go to university and get great grades and degrees but afterwards do nothing about it.”

“When you’re single, you live with your parents and your dad pays for everything and the money you earn is extra.”

“Then you go to your husband’s house and it continues.”

You can download the full report here and watch the accompanying video below:

Alison Simpson
About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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