Domestic violence in Iran

Domestic violence in Iran

Domestic violence in Iran is complicated by cultural, political and legal systems that support violence against women in the Islamic Republic of Iran.


Definition of Domestic Violence

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition, domestic violence is: "the inflicting of physical injury by one family or household member on another; also: a repeated or habitual pattern of such behavior."[1]

Coomarswamy defines domestic violence as "violence that occurs within the private sphere, generally between individuals who are related through intimacy, blood or law…[It is] nearly always a gender-specific crime, perpetrated by men against women." It used is as a strong form of control and oppression.[2]

Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, declared in a 2006 report posted on the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) website that:

Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her.[3]

National and political culture

In Iran the nature of domestic violence is complicated by both a national culture and authoritative state that support control, oppression and violence against women. "The government does so by promoting fundamentalist ideas of women as properties of men. It does so by setting up an unequal legal system and not punishing assault even when it has resulted in severe injury or at times even death. The conversation of domestic violence then cannot be simply domestic but begins to take the shape of a systematic violence, fueled by tradition, ignited by religion, encouraged by the dominant authoritarian state, and empowered by poverty and illiteracy."[3]

At the heart of the issue is the belief, rooted in common law, that men are responsible for their household affairs, especially treatment of family members, and should not be subject to intervention by the government.[3]

"Women should sacrifice themselves and tolerate" is an old Iranian saying that represents how most women manage domestic abuse.[4]

Iranian feminists believe that women's issues must be further investigated since so many women are facing domestic violence in Iran.[5] "Religious intellectuals have responded by engaging in reluctant analysis of the way the woman question poses itself in the Iranian context. So far, their analyses fail to take into account the gender implications of the struggle against absolutism and traditional authority. However, the dynamic interaction of the reform project with demands and aspirations of various sectors of Iranian public life will not allow the issue to rest here. Religious intellectuals, in their attempt to recreate essential religious truth in the form of new intellectual concepts and systems, will increasingly have to deal with systemic gender inequalities in a more systematic manner."[5]

Although the Iranian society is starting to recognize the issues surrounding beating women in Islamic household, many Muslims are reluctant to admit such issues exist. An argument is that hadiths are not the word of God, but rather statements that historical Muslim figures, like Muhammad, made. Iranian women argue that these hadiths could be misinterpreted and therefore should not be taken as orders or truth.[5] A news article in the Washington Post by Pamela K. Taylor admits that "we must acknowledge that there are problematical verses in the Qur'an and there are certain hadith which must be countered."[6]

Incidence of domestic abuse in Iran

In his article "Domestic Violence against Single and Married Women in Iranian Society ", Azad Moradian quoted a National Coalition Against Domestic Violence statement regarding the nature of domestic violence:

Violence against women is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, and thus is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and sometimes death. The consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and truly last a lifetime.[3]

The Census Bauru in Iran, an official government agency, has precluded international organizations from performing studies of domestic violence in Iran and has never conducted their own study of violence against women.[3]

The prevalence of domestic violence has been cited as a cause of high rates of suicide, mostly through self-immolation, among Kurdish women in Iran.[7]

World Health Organization study

A World Health Organization (WHO) study in Babol found that within the previous year 15.0% of wives had been physically abused, 42.4% had been sexually abused and 81.5% had been psychologically abused (to various degrees) by their husbands, blaming low income, young age, unemployment and low education.[8]

2004 domestic violence study

In 2004 Dr. Ghazi Tabatabaei, a renowned Iranian sociologist, led a study of domestic violence for a joint project undertaken by the Women's Center for Presidential Advisory, Ministry of Higher Education and The Interior Ministry. Other noted scholars, professionals, psychologists and socialists participated in the study of the capital cities in Iran's 28 provinces that resulted after several years in 32 volumes of results. The findings from questionnaires included the following areas of focus: violence towards women and children, marriages and remarriages, divorce, the effect of education and work on violence and family issues.[3]

The 32 volume findings are available only to scholars and researchers at the Center for Research in Tehran and have been shared with governmental lawmakers and agencies. The study of Iran, a diverse country of many ethnical and cultural communities, resulted in varied results by province, and particularly different the further that women lived from Tehran, the capital of Iran. This could be attributed to the lack of higher education, economics, and dominance of religion.[3]

From the study:

  • 66% married women in Iran are subjected to some kind of domestic violence in the first year of their marriage, either by their husbands or by their in-laws.
  • All married women who were participants in this study in Iran have experienced 7.4% of the 9 categories of abuse.
  • The more children in a family, the more likely domestic violence will occur towards women.
  • 9.63% of women in the study reported wishing their husbands would die, as a result of the abuse they have experienced.[3]
9 Main Categories of Domestic Violence[3]
Main category of abuse Statistic Comments
Verbal abuse Not provided in the article abstract.
Physical abuse 8.37% of married women in the study reported having experienced severe physical abuse.
Emotional abuse 52% of married women in the study reported having experienced emotional abuse.
Economical abuse, such as: refusing her right to have a job, restricting her opportunities, taking her income, restricting allowance Not provided in the article abstract.
Legal abuse, for example: a husband has a legal right in Iran to take his wife's full rights away, by restricting her from traveling, and going out of the house Not provided in the article abstract.
Educational abuse: restricting the right to go to school 7.27% of married women in the study reported having experienced educational and career restrictions. Women who have a higher education and are career women experience a lower level of domestic violence.
Neglect by restricting food or not feeding/adequately providing for a family Not provided in the article abstract.
Sexual abuse, including unwanted sexual activity within a marital relationship, including rape, forced pregnancy, forced abortions, restricting wife's access to health care and birth control, extra-marital affairs 2.10% of married women in the study reported having experienced sexual abuse; however, this number could be severely under reported due to the taboo surrounding the topic. Of the women who reported sexual abuse, 5.2% reported having a miscarriage due to severe beatings by her husband.
Honor killings and murder 5.23% of married women in the study reported having experienced near death violence or feared for their lives due to domestic violence. The chief of police in Iran stated that 40% of all murders in Iran happen due to domestic violence and that 50% of all women who are murdered are done so by someone in their immediate family and mostly from the woman's home.

Kobra Najjar

Kobra Najjar is one of several cases in Iran who was sentenced to be executed to death by stoning for adultery. For 12 years Najjar was the victim of physical abuse and was forced into prostitution by her heroin addicted husband. Iranian Penal Code, Article 83, declares a married person commits adultery when they have sexual intercourse with anyone other than their spouse; That article applies even if they were forced into prostitution by their husband. Outraged by her plight, one of Najjar's clients murdered her husband and was convicted and sentenced to death; Kobra Najjar was also convicted as an accomplice and imprisoned for 8 years.[3] Kobra Najjar was acquitted released after 13 years in prison, a recipient of work by the "Stop Stoning Forever" and her volunteer human rights lawyer.[9][nb 1]


Battered women's shelters

The government is opposed to construction of battered women's shelters.[4]


There is a significant disparity between treatment of men and women in marriage and divorce.

  • Men may marry up to 4 girls and woman. They may divorce a woman when they choose.
  • Woman. It is very difficult for girls and women to divorce men. Often they are forced to stay in abusive marriages. They may lose custody of their children that are older than age 7 to her husband and father-in-law. Since a woman's testimony is only worth half of a man's testimony, it is very difficult to prove domestic abuse.[3]

Economically, divorce is rarely an option for Iranian women because they are financially dependent upon their husbands. With divorce, the father obtains custody of the children and can prevent the woman from seeing her children, a paradigm that prevents most women from talking to their family about abuse, and extremely unlikely to pursue any remedy with the government.[4]

Education and activism

Since about 1994 there have been an overwhelming number of Masters' and PH.D thesis written about women's issues due by women in higher education, including universities in Iran. Because the papers have been unable to result in change or improvements, many universities are now discouraging thesis based upon Iranian women's issues.[3]

Moradian wrote in 2009 that "Human rights organizations, political/humanitarian oppositional groups and advocacy groups for women were the only voices that acknowledged the existence of this widespread phenomenal in Iran and fought for changes in law and education within communities."[3]

Domestic violence workshops and newspaper articles are bringing greater awareness to women's issues. Men at universities are doing research on women's issues, which may be a sign of movement toward greater social and economic equality.[4]

Asadullah Abbas, Fatema Alia and Ramezan Shojaei Kiyasari, members of the Iranian parliament, represented Iran at the "Regional Seminar for Asian Parliaments" seminar on 'Preventing and responding to violence against women and girls: From legislation to effective enforcement' held in New Delhi, India in 2011. Mrs. Fatemeh Alia announced that new laws related to violence against women were placed on Iran's parliament agenda.[11]


Existing laws (Iranian Code of Criminal Procedure articles 42, 43, 66) intend to prohibit violence in the form of kidnapping, gender-based harassment, abuse of pregnant women and "crimes against rights and responsibilities within the family structure," but due to cultural and political culture do not protect women, prosecute their abusers and provide services to victims.[3][11]

Under Iranian law there is no concept of marital rape. Women, under civil law, have a duty, called "tamkin", to submit to her husband, including his sexual demands.[4]

The Islamic Republic of Iran generally ignores, sanctions and in some cases encourages violence against women. The government has laws that support violence against women in the case of adultery, including flogging, imprisonment and death. Girls of 13 years of age or more are considered of legal marrying age.[nb 2][3]

Proposed laws

Laws to better enforce existing laws and protect women against violence were placed on the agenda before the Iranian parliament the week ending 16 September 2011, focusing on both protection and prevention of violence against women, including focus on human trafficking, better protection and services for abuse victims, rehabilitation (especially concerning domestic abuse) and better processes to manage questioning of female offenders. One of the keys to ultimate success is altering community cultural views regarding the use of violence against women.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Maryam Kian Ersi, the lawyer representing Kobra Najjar to prevent execution, was arrested with four other attorneys in Tehran on 10 November 2011. (Of the five attorneys, three are women: Maryam Kian Ersi, Sara Sabbaghian, and Maryam Karbasi. The other two people's names are unknown.)

    Ersi was arrested at the Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport following a trip to Turkey, charged with "committing security crimes" and "actions committed abroad which are inconsistent with the values of Islamic Republic of Iran," as ordered by the Security Branch of the Shahid Moghaddas Judicial Complex, and detained at Evin Prison. Sadegh Larijani, Head of the Iranian Judiciary, criticized lawyers interviewed by members of the international press as "an insult to the legal society" the day before Ersi's arrest. She joins other human rights attorneys who are detained and imprisoned in Iranian prisons.[10]
  2. ^ At age 8 girls are considered old enough to be convicted of adultery and fornication, which could result in being sentenced to death.[3]
  1. ^ Domestic Violence. Merriam Webster. Retrieved 14 Nov. 2011.
  2. ^ Coomaraswamy, Radhika. Further Promotion and Encouragement of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. United Nations. Economic and Social Council. 5 Feb. 1996. Retrieved 19 Oct. 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Moradian, Azad. Domestic Violence against Single and Married Women in Iranian Society. Tolerancy International. September 2009. Retrieved 16 Nov. 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e Esfandiari, Golnaz. World: Violence Against Women -- In Iran, Abuse Is Part Of The Culture. Payvand Iran News. 26 Nov. 2003. Retrieved 16 Nov. 2011.
  5. ^ a b c Farhi, Farideh. Religious Intellectuals, the 'Woman Question', and the Struggle for the Creation of a Democratic Public Sphere in Iran. International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 15 (2001)
  6. ^ Taylor, Pamela K. On Faith Panelists Blog: Aasiya Zubair Hassan, Domestic Violence and Islam - Pamela K. Taylor. The Washington Post. 27 Feb. 2009. Retrieved 26 Oct. 2011.
  7. ^ Esfandiari, Golnaz. Iran: Self-Immolation Of Kurdish Women Brings Concern. Radio Free Europe (February 8, 2006).
  8. ^ Faramarzi, M. et al. Prevalence and determinants of intimate partner violence in Babol city, Islamic Republic of Iran. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal 11 Nos 5 & 6 (September 2005) (World Health Organization).
  9. ^ Vahdati, Soheila. Crushed under stones. 17 Jul 2010. Retrieved 17 Nov 2011.
  10. ^ Five Lawyers Arrested, Only Three Identified. Iran Human Rights. 17 Nov 2011.
  11. ^ a b c Iran enforces laws on prevention of violence against women: Iranian MP Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran, High Council For Human Rights. 16 Sep. 2011. Retrieve 15 Nov. 2011.

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