Seventh Edition September 2004 - Shahrivar 1383

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Protest Against Officials' Indifference Toward Violations of the Islamic Dress Code
Sharq Newspaper
September 4, 2004
Tehran - After the completion of Friday Prayer, a number of participants responded to an invitation by Ansar-e Hizbollah to protest against what they perceive as authorities' inattention towards [women's] violations of the Islamic dress code (bad hejabi) throughout the country by marching from Tehran University to Enqelab (Revolutionary) Square.

At the conclusion of their march, the participants read a statement in which they demanded that bad hejabi be confronted, extended efforts be spent on spreading Islamic culture, and a law for spreading a "culture of chastity" be implemented.

The statement, which was addressed to the representatives of the Seventh Majles (Parliament), declared, "The honorable Majles has a clear and undeniable responsibility to retrieve the plundered social heritage of the Islamic Revolution and to establish a suitable environment for spiritual and Islamic moral growth. Any concessions, considerations of expediency or potential politicking in fulfilling this responsibility is a gross disloyalty toward the [Parliament] members' constituents. The enforcement of laws and the reprimand of violators, under close supervision by the representatives, will guarantee the establishment of an Islamic and spiritual society. No excuses in this regard are acceptable. We strongly demand that the principle-oriented Seventh Majlis fulfill its pledge to establish a healthy society based on Islamic principles."

In the statement, the Friday Prayer participants stressed the indisputable role of state TV and radio (Seda and Sima) in the dissemination of Islamic culture and criticized this national organization for failing to perform its role successfully.

Meanwhile, Fatima Alia, Tehran Majles representative and member of the Cultural Commission of the Majlis, in an interview with Fars News Service, spoke about the Iranian National Dress Plan, "In a meeting with Mr. Masjid-Jamei, head of the Public Culture Council, issues surrounding the Iranian National Dress Plan was discussed. He informed us that the Council had already begun addressing these issues and that the creation of the national dolls, Dara and Sara, was the first step in the implementation of this project." Alia added, "I pointed out that the dolls are clad in local clothing that have been designed for dolls and not for people…"

It is noteworthy that in a recent press conference, President Mohammad Khatami expressed displeasure at what journalists described as inappropriate street encounters with women and girls, saying, "The government and law enforcement may not have been involved in a considerable number of these encounters, but this kind of behavior with male or female youth is unjustifiable even in isolated instances."

Khatami added, "Acts of 'enjoining to do good and forbidding evil' [from the Quran] has its place."

Appealing to the youth to consider the dominant state of affairs in society, the President also noted, "Nothing new has happened to instigate a new wave of concern about our religion or culture's destruction. And if our religion and culture are under threat of destruction, those responsible should be held accountable."

In recent encounters with dress code violations, women and girls in several provinces were presented with a flower stem and recitation from the hadith in an effort to encourage them to properly observe the Islamic dress code.

A number of mosques in Tehran also joined the group of protestors and presented a petition which announced their readiness "to start a movement to combat social corruptions." The writers of the petition urged the representatives of the Seventh Majles, who are developing a national campaign against dress code violations (bad hejabi), "to fulfill their duty to institutionalize and enforce Article 8 of the Constitution regarding the popularization [of the Quranic verse] to enjoin the good and forbid the evil."

Following this event, state radio and TV reporters interviewed women and young girls on the streets throughout the city, soliciting their opinions about the current apparel on the market.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Mehr News Service, Ferdows Qomashchi, head of the Women's Affairs Office of the police force, spoke of a national plan within the police force to fight against Islamic dress code violations. She explained that her office was presently conducting research on a national project which is expected to target Tehran and other provincial capitals.

One of the members of the Central Council of Ansar-e Hezbollah said in an interview with Mehr News Service, "Our main addressees in these protests are the officials. We expect them to take action before the pious take matters into their own hands. We expect them to take action as soon as possible to prevent the spread of violations of the Islamic dress code." Concurrent with the Friday march, an exhibition of pictures depicting examples of bad hejab women on Tehran's streets was on display.

Meeting of women's groups in protest to the elimination of "gender equity" from the government's Fourth Development Plan
Maryam Hosseinkhah
August 31, 2004
Tehran - In response to the 7th Majles' (Parliament) elimination of the phrase, "gender equity" from the government's Fourth Development Plan, several women's groups held an emergency meeting on August 28.

The meeting's purpose was to discuss the reasons for the clause's elimination and plan for future actions.

The meeting was scheduled to be held in the auditorium of the Center for People's Participation in Nezam Ganjavi Park. However, several hours before the meeting, the Center's management informed the organizers that the meeting could not be held in the auditorium; no explanation was forthcoming. So the women sat outside and held their meeting on the park's grounds.

In the meeting, Fariba Davoudi Mohajer, head of the Association of Young Newspaper Journalists, stated that the inclusion of "gender equity" in the Fourth Plan was the result of two years of continuous efforts by the previous Parliament's Women's Commission and the government's Office for Women's Participation.

Davoudi Mohajer added, "Even the women representatives of the Parliament expressed remorse at the elimination of this phrase and said that they would try to compensate for this action, which of course, is not possible considering the Parliament's internal rules."

Shahindokht Mowlavardi, the deputy of international affairs of the Office for Women's Participation, explained how the term, "equity" had initially made its way into the Fourth Plan, "It was suggested that we include the phrase, "gender equity" instead of "gender equality" in the hopes that the Guardian Council would not reject the wording. With the passing of this provision, the government was obligated to provide the groundwork for women's empowerment in diverse areas of society."

Guiti Shambayati saw the problem in the Parliament representatives' unfamiliarity with the meaning of the word, "gender": "In the Farsi language, the similarity of the words, jens (sex) and jensiat (gender) created some confusion and misunderstanding. I don't think the Parliament representatives were familiar with the concept and meaning of 'gender equity.' This unfamiliarity is prevalent among ordinary people and even among the educated. Perhaps more important than protesting the phrase's elimination, we should be raising social awareness about the concept of gender equality."

Attorney Zohre Arzani, a member of the NGO, Women's Cultural Center voiced a different opinion, stating, "In fact, those who eliminated the provision on gender equity knew exactly what it meant, but they presented the issue in such a way as to encourage public opinion against it."

Writer Minoo Morteza Langeroudi identified the problem as one of women's NGOs not having an organic relationship with ordinary women, "We have lost a language of understanding and dialogue with the people, and in our writings, we only have a specific readership in mind. We need to familiarize people with such concepts through the distribution of brochures and leaflets and show the ways in which gender equality and the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women can impact their daily lives."

Kaveh Mozafari, a member of the NGO, Center for Hastia Andish, suggested an exhibition of caricatures that satirize gender stereotypes as a route to sensitize society to gender issues.

Ehteram Shadfar, a member of the NGO, Women's Cultural Center, argued that the target population should be ordinary people, and not officials and other power-holders, "We can distribute our brochures and pamphlets in beauty salons, parks, universities, and other public places so that women become aware of their rights."

Mahboubeh Abbas Gholizadeh, head of the Center for NGO Skills Training, proposed that a committee be formed to draft a public statement addressed to the 7th Parliament expressing opposition to the provision's elimination. She also suggested that another statement be sent to the Beijing +10 organizers and encouraged lobbying and dialogue with government officials and Parliament representatives.

The meeting's participants supported the drafting of the two statements but there was some opposition to lobbying and dialogue with the government and Parliament.

At the meeting's end, it was decided that all three actions be implemented and that every NGO representative independently decide which action to participate in.

Majles (Parliament) eliminates the "establishment of gender equity" from Iran's Fourth Development Plan
LNA News Service
August 17, 2004
Tehran - The representatives of the Seventh Majles (Parliament) have eliminated the phrase, "the establishment of gender equity" from Paragraph H of Article 99 of the government's Fourth Development Plan. The phrase provided for the drafting and passing of a comprehensive plan to support women's rights and empowerment and to establish gender equity in legal, social, and economic spheres.

Based on a vote by representatives of the previous 6th Majles and Article 99, the government is obligated to implement measures aimed at maintaining and promoting social investment, increasing public satisfaction, and expanding civil institutions during the first year of the Fourth Plan.

Paragraph H of Article 99 bound the government to create a comprehensive plan in support of women's rights and women's empowerment, as well as establishing gender equity in legal, social, and economic realms.

It is noteworthy that no women representatives of the current Majles voiced their opposition during the vote to omit the phrase in question.

"Plan to Establish Counseling Centers" to Decrease Divorce Rates
ILNA News Service
August 14, 2004
Tehran - The head of the women's faction in the Majles (Parliament) announced, "The plan to establish counseling centers in family courts is a result of several meetings between the women representatives of the Majles and the judicial courts."

Nafiseh Fayazbakhsh, Parliament representative from Tehran, in an interview with ILNA emphasized, "This plan is intended to decrease the divorce rates throughout the country."

She explained, "This plan, which is a gift from the women's faction of the 7th Majles to all women of the country, aims to evaluate all domestic disputes from a psychological perspective before reaching judicial review."

Fayazbakhsh continued, "If domestic disputes presented to the counseling center can be resolved in partnership with the Welfare Organization, the Relief Committee, and social work centers, we will focus our efforts to do so. When it is determined that the disputes cannot be resolved, the cases will be sent to the courts."

The head of the women's faction stressed, "We hope that this plan is approved by the representatives of the Majles so we can help decrease the divorce rate in Iran."

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