A so-called “Family Protection Bill” is winding its way through the Iranian legal system, threatening to make official a law that discriminates against women. If passed, men would be allowed to take up to three additional wives in Iran without the consent or knowledge of the first. Under current law, a man can marry up to four women as long as he obtains permission from the first and demonstrates his ability to treat them all equally.
Over a year ago, a group of activists collected 15,000 signatures from women around Iran opposed to the law. Women adversely affected by their husbands taking second wives also wrote their stories on pieces of cloth that were sewed together into a quilt. The activists brought the signatures and quilt to the Iranian Parliament last year. And although the Members of Parliament refused to accept the quilt, the bill has not yet been passed largely because of opposition to it.
An Iranian woman advocates for gender equality by writing on her hands “woman = man”.
Unfortunately, the bill itself has other features that are valuable. If passed, it would allow women to serve as judges for the first time since the 1979 revolution, and men who marry girls under the legal age would face jail time. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government, however, included the degrading polygamy article into the bill with the hopes of adding new elements of sharia law into the country’s legal system. Since then, the bill — with both good and bad articles — has been help up in Parliament.
Iran is one of the few countries in its region that allows polygamy only with the consent of the first wife. Still, women are not treated equally under the law. This proposed bill floating in Iran’s Parliament does nothing to protect families as it alleges, and should be withdrawn for one that does.