Education International
Education International

Iran and Women’s Rights

published 4 June 2010 updated 4 March 2022

Iranian teachers are speaking out against human and trade union rights violations that result in them being imprisoned and killed for peaceful activism. Four teachers are reported to have been jailed in recent months, while 35-year-old teacher, Farzad Kamangar, is reported to have been executed in secret despite the legal appeals process for his case not being complete.

In the past year, women’s rights activists have also been arrested and jailed as they have demanded freedom and greater gender equality, arguing that Iran treats its female citizens as inferior to men. One example of this practice is the recent piece of legislation, the ‘Family Support Bill’, which activists have argued will curtail women’s rights in the name of ‘strengthening’ the family. Among those women’s activists who have spoken out, including workers and students, have been detained or have received heavy prison sentences.

Ironically, Iran had made a bid to become a member of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council but dropped that goal in order to secure a position on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) instead. The CSW is a subsidiary body of the ECOSOC, which is made up of 45 elected representatives for a period of four years. Iran’s successful bid is a serious blow to the CSW’s goals because the body evaluates progress on gender equality, sets global standards and policies to promote gender equality of women. It is shocking that a UN body has granted membership to Iran on the CSW, because is a member state that is not a signatory of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and it continues to ignore women’s rights violations.

Other countries joining Iran for the term beginning in 2011 include, Belgium, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Estonia, Georgia, Jamaica, Liberia, the Netherlands, Spain, Thailand and Zimbabwe.

A sign of disrespect

EI was deeply concerned about the process and opportunity for critical engagement between government and women at the CSW Session 54 held at Beijing +15. Civil society members faced major hurdles, both political and practical, including the disagreement over the agreed outcomes document, registering for the event, and lack of interpretation in meeting rooms.

When the Commission on the Status of Women next convenes on March, 2011, it will discuss: ‘Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.’ The Commission will evaluate progress made in implementing the conclusions of its 51st session on “The elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.” Both themes require the mobilisation of teachers’ unions and collaboration with civil society organisations at the national level.

EI's First World Women's Conference will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 20-23 January, 2011, and will allocate time to appraise participants and discuss actions to be taken.

By Rebeca Sevilla.

This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 34, June 2010.