Iranian women in Canada hold banners and portraits of Mahsa Amini, during a protest against her death in Toronto, Canada on September 22, 2022. REUTERS./

 – The Nobel Peace Prize for jailed activist Narges Mohammadi has heightened scrutiny on women’s rights in Iran.

Tehran rejects accusations of discrimination, but these are some of the ways it treats women, according to 2021 and 2023 reports by the U.N. Human Rights Council special rapporteur on Iran Javaid Rehman.


Police, Basij militia and vigilante morality police enforce compulsory public dress codes using violence, the U.N. report says. A woman not wearing a hijab head scarf could face harassment, arrest, a fine and up to two months in prison. Activists who have challenged the laws have faced years in prison.

The death of Mahsa Amini in custody after breaching hijab rules, which triggered convulsive nationwide protests, came amid an official push on Islamic dress codes.

Security forces were filmed beating women who removed their hijab during protests. Security forces sexually assaulted women arrested during the protests, according to the U.N. rapporteur’s report, citing rights groups and former detainees.

Iran has denied abusing protesters and detainees.

The parliament has meanwhile passed a bill mandating prison terms of up to 10 years for anybody organising against the wearing of hijab though it has not yet passed into law.

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The legal age for girls to marry is 13 and younger girls may also marry with special paternal and judicial consent. More than 13,000 girls aged 13 were married from March 2018-March 2019, the U.N. report said, citing most recently-available government data.

A woman must seek her father’s permission to marry, though a court may override his refusal. Husbands may stop wives from taking jobs or travelling overseas.

Iran allows polygamy, including an unrestricted number of temporary marriages arranged for a fixed period.

Husbands have an incontestable right to divorce but women may only divorce on limited grounds and usually have to forgo monetary claims to secure agreement.

A mother may have physical custody of a child until age seven when custody is transferred to the father, though a court may override that. The father remains sole legal guardian.


Girls can be held criminally responsible from the age of nine lunar years for serious crimes, whereas boys cannot be held responsible until 15 lunar years. In 2018 Mahboubeh Mofidi, who was married at 13, was executed for allegedly having murdered her husband aged 17 after accusing him of domestic violence.

The penal code says “blood money” compensation paid to the family of a female murder victim is set at half that offered for a man. A woman’s testimony in court is in many legal proceedings equal to half that of a man.


Sexual assault is not criminalised as a distinct crime. Rape can be prosecuted as an illicit form of sexual relations but the victim also risks punishment if she cannot prove coercion, the U.N. rapporteur said.

A man who sees his wife commit adultery may be exempted some punishment if he kills her. There are some exemptions for men who kill children or grandchildren, creating protection for “honour killings” of women and girls accused of sexual misconduct.

Wives must prove “an intolerable level of spousal abuse” to divorce on the grounds of domestic violence, the rapporteur said.


Women are ineligible to become judges and almost none have taken senior political roles. Many women who applied to be candidates in elections were not allowed to stand. Authorities have periodically stopped women working as secretaries and office managers or in restaurants and cafes.

(Compiled by Angus McDowall;Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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