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Anicée Van Engeland

Abstract

The Iranian discourse on human rights is not well known for a wide range of reasons: there are few translations from Persian; the Iranian human rights' model is often perceived as a threat to universality and Iran has a generally negative image on the international scene. The reality is that the post-Islamic Iranian human rights discourse is rich, varied and intellectually stimulating, the paradoxical outcome of a regime that limits freedom of expression and freedom of thought. Iranian intellectuals have to find strategies to avoid the censorship that threatens anyone who defies Iran's official human rights model. These intellectuals have formulated incredibly compelling theories that can be assimilated to a third voice transcending the permanent opposition between the principle of universality and cultural relativism. This theory is being advocated across the Muslim world and throughout Muslim communities. Iranian intellectuals have shaped their own approach to this third path, thereby creating an Iranian human rights' specificity within the Muslim world.

Anicée Van Engeland

According to some interpretations of Islam supported by gender activists, the veil can be perceived as a passport that enables women to participate in public affairs. This argument has been overlooked by the courts, including the European Court of Human Rights. The latter has adopted a discourse that considers the veil to be a threat to public order and gender equality, and more recently, an obstacle to social cohesion. By doing so, the Court has excluded veiled European Muslim women from the public sphere. The Court has justified curbing freedom of religion by granting states a wide margin of appreciation on the basis of the concept of “living together.” I argue that the Court needs to take the “passport veil” into account to be consistent with its argument on living together. A shift of approach and discourse would constitute a new way of understanding integration through the veil.

Anicée Van Engeland

This article analyzes how Iranian women have become legal actors and unofficial source of law in the Islamic republic of Iran, compelling the government to align on universal women’s rights standards. Iranian women have initiated and supported amendments, bills and reforms to enhance their rights and to work towards the implementation of universal women’s rights standards. The path they have opted for to reform Iranian law is original from many viewpoints: firstly, the reform of Iranian law takes place from the bottom to the top of the society as it is carried out by civil society; then women activists and groups support the reform of methods of interpretation of Islamic legal sources in order to see the emergence of more human rights-orientated interpretations of Islamic law: Eventually to reach their aim of conciliation between Iranian law, Islamic law and universal women’s rights, Iranian women have drawn their inspirations for a reformed Iranian law from many legal sources, giving a practical meaning to the notion of legal pluralism.

Series:

Anicée Van Engeland

Abstract

The struggle to control women’s destinies and bodies through law is a well-known issue. The Islamic republic of Iran is no stranger to such an attempt, and in 2013 the conser­vative Majles introduced two bills: the Bill to increase Fertility Rates and Prevent Population Decline (Bill 446) and the Comprehensive Population and Exaltation of Family Bill (Bill 315). These bills were the outcome of the Guide Ayatollah Khameini’s decision that family planning should be reformed and that policies on population control should be lifted. Altogether, these laws challenge sexual and reproductive rights as guaranteed under several international law documents ratified by Iran. The purpose of this article is to look into the two Bills to extract the conservative Shia thought lingering behind them, and to critically examine it before moving to study the strategy to promote such views inside the republic. The overall focus will be that of the protection and implementation of women’s rights from an Islamic and a universalist perspective, looking at traditional women’s rights paradigms.