Lawmakers passed a bill laying out harsh penalties for violations of Tehran’s religious dress code
Iran is set to adopt a new law that threatens stricter punishments for women who refuse to wear the mandatory Islamic headscarf, including prison sentences up to a decade for those involved in organized protests against the rule.
The country’s parliament – the Islamic Consultative Assembly – passed the legislation on Wednesday, voting to impose the new law on a trial basis for three years before it expires. Iran’s Guardian Council, an oversight agency made up of religious and legal experts, still must approve the measure before it is enacted.
The law offers dozens of amendments to Tehran’s religious dress code, which has been in force for both men and women since the country’s 1979 revolution, with more than 70 articles defining rules and penalties for rule-breakers.
In addition to the required headscarf, or hijab, women will be barred from wearing “revealing or tight clothing, or clothing that shows parts of the body lower than the neck or above the ankles or above the forearms,” according to local media reports. For men, “revealing clothing that shows parts of the body lower than the chest or above the ankles, or shoulders” will be off-limits.
Iranians found to be involved in organized protests against the dress code will face the harshest punishments under the new law, which proposes 10-year prison sentences for protesters working in concert with “foreign governments, networks, media, groups or organizations.” The penalties also apply to business owners who opt to serve women not wearing the headdress, or who promote “nudity, lack of chastity or bad covering.”
Legislators passed the measure just days after the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died while in the custody of Iran’s ‘morality police’ after she was accused of violating the hijab mandate. Her death kicked off months of violent protests across Iran, resulting in thousands of arrests and further loss of life among demonstrators and security forces.
The United Nations and other international humanitarian bodies have condemned the religious dress code. Last month, a panel of UN experts claimed the hijab law “could be described as a form of gender apartheid,” warning of “severe punishments on women and girls for noncompliance.”
In a recent interview with ABC News, the wife of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Jamileh Alamolhoda, defended the country’s dress code, arguing the rules were crafted “out of respect for women” and were no different from other “dress codes everywhere.”
“I need to tell you that hijab was a tradition, was a religiously mandated tradition, accepted widely. And now for years, it has been turned into a law. And breaking of the law, trampling upon any laws, just like in any country, comes with its own set of punishments,” she added.