Photo: Unsplash/Hasan Almasi

A Year After Protests, Iran Raises Punishment for Hijab Violation

Iran’s parliament approved a new “Hijab and Chastity” bill on Wednesday, September 20, imposing more severe punishments on its citizens, especially women, if they attempt to defy the country’s mandatory dress code laws.

The bill, which expanded from 15 articles to 70 enshrining a wide range of harsh punitive measures into law, will be applied for a three-year trial period.

Iran’s Guardian Council, a powerful body made up of clerics overseeing legislation, would need to approve the bill before it can be executed, said Iran’s Mizan news agency.

The 70-article draft law, defining violation as “clothes that show a part of the body below the neck or above the ankles or above the forearms,” lays out a stricter penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment as well as a fine of up to 360 million Iranian rials (US$8,508) for failure to comply. The law also set out the use of artificial intelligence to identify women who violate the dress code.

Business owners could face hefty fines and their shops potentially be closed down. Celebrities could face expulsion from professional jobs for a particular period and be banned from traveling abroad and social media activities. The Iranian regime already enforces such persecutions against those who challenge its morality codes, particularly during the past year following mass protests led by women.

The legislation has prompted domestic and international concerns.

The UN experts said that it could amount to “gender apartheid”, as Iranian authorities impose systemic discrimination to suppress women and girls into “total submission.”

A report by Human Rights Activists, which monitors human rights violations in Iran, stated that the new bill violates Iran’s obligations under international human rights law and represents a systematic crackdown on women’s autonomy and freedom of expression.

“The Islamic Republic has taken a cue from the Taliban to slowly ban us from public places. They want to erase women from society.” A finance student from Tehran told the Guardian, referring to the Taliban’s more than 50 draconian edicts against women in Afghanistan effectively barring their access to education, work, and other freedoms.

The approval of the new bill comes one year after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman, who died in custody allegedly for not wearing the Islamic headscarf properly, leading to months of protests across Iran.

In response, the Islamic government violently cracked down on last year’s protests with widespread reports of death, enforced disappearance, and torture in detention centers.

“After months of nationwide protests over the death of Jina Mahsa Amini and against restrictive veiling laws, the authorities have introduced a tiered system of punishments targeting women and girls,” the UN experts indicated.

Although Iranian authorities announced a halt in the operation of its morality police, Gasht-e-Ershad, the UN report says they have redeployed morality police in several areas since July this year in a bid to enforce mandatory hijab laws.

The UN urged authorities to reconsider the compulsory hijab legislation, uphold the international human rights law, and protect women’s rights.