Over the past four decades Iran has been named as one of the worst violators of women’s rights. Gender discrimination against women is legalized under Sharia Law which Iran’s judicial system is based on. According to these laws, women’s testimony in court is worth half a male, women are denied freedom of travel without the consent of a male guardian, and custody rights for mothers are systematically disregarded. Abrogation of Iran’s family protection laws after the 1979 revolution, compulsory dress code imposed on the female population, and stadium ban are additional discriminatory acts against Iranian women. Despite these Iranian women have fought against these laws through civil disobedient for the past forty years.
It is important to note that the core of the women’s rights movement in Iran goes back to the Constitutional Revolution of 1906-1911 and the emergence of civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Iran’s first Constitution, however, did not grant suffrage rights to women. In the next half-century, the women’s movement in Iran was more or less subsumed under, and sidetracked by, major political movements of the time. It was not until 1963 with the aggressive development of Iranian society under the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi that Iranian women gained the right to vote. Subsequently, women grew into the higher ranks of societal and political significance, occupying high administrative and even ministerial positions, while at the same time in many families and civic laws they were legally discriminated against.
The Islamic Revolution of 1979 undid the achievements of Iranian women, as the new state of Iran placed the traditional Sharia Law above all other laws. As a result, the social and political status of women quickly deteriorated. With the passage of time, many of the rights that women had gained under the Shah, were systematically abolished through legislation in an attempt to encourage Iranian women to stay at home and play the traditionally-celebrated role of wife-mother.