Population Bill Passed in Majlis

Population Bill Passed in Majlis Population Bill Passed in Majlis

Framework of the ‘Comprehensive Population and Family Bill’ was approved in an open session of the Majlis (Parliament) last week with 144 lawmakers in favor, 26 against and six abstentions.

The Majlis, also called the Islamic Consultative Assembly, has 290 lawmakers, including nine women.

The bill aims to promote population growth and strengthen the family fabric, the Khabaronline news website reported.

Following the legislative approval, the 55-article bill was sent to the Majlis Cultural Commission for further study. A working group in the committee has been set up in this regard.    

Opponents to the bill say that the scheme will put a heavy financial burden on the government and the Guardian Council, the powerful oversight body, may reject it.

The first article of the bill sets the “appropriate” marriage age: 20-25 years for men and 18-22 years for women and aims to increase fertility rate by 2.5% within the next eight years.

According to article 9, in both private and state-run organizations employment priority will be given to married men with children, followed by married men without children and then women with children.

Furthermore, five years after the law comes into effect, single people will not be considered for scientific advisory boards of universities and institutions of higher learning. Employment of unmarried people as teachers in private and state-run schools and research centers will be restricted. Only in case of lack of married staff, singles will be considered.  

 Opponents View

The MPs who voted in favor of the bill believe the measures can reduce the “doubts and fears about marriage.” On the other hand, opponents say such measures may backfire.

Laleh Eftekhari, MP, says that “the plan will not work, as it could result in discrimination against women and harm their employment prospects.”

Nahid Khodakarami, lawmaker and secretary of the health working group in the office of the vice president for women and family affairs, and an opponent to the bill, referred to article 6 and said, “According to the article, one year after the law comes into force, the Health Ministry and the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology should design new educational programs at different educational levels in the fields of family psychology, family rights, parenting and child rearing.

“At present, there is no paucity of educational programs; new programs will cause confusion. Instead, we should complete the existing educational modules,” she said.

Article 9 should be deleted as it could cause social harm and encourage “nominal marriages” or marriages in name only, in the society, she warned.

“Without people’s cooperation, achieving the demographic targets will not be easy. We can’t order married couples to have children without first providing adequate and appropriate welfare facilities. If we provide jobs, housing and social tranquility for our citizens, (then) they will voluntarily have more children. When our youth worry constantly about their future and do not marry, no law can force them to do so.”

 Gender Bias

She also said it is very unfortunate that the bill has been passed by majority of male votes. “Only three women voted in favor. The bill was written by men and has paid less attention to women’s” needs and concerns.  

Granting longer leave to female students who have children under the age of five and increasing the maximum recruitment age for women in specific jobs, including university teaching jobs, are two other important articles in the bill.

After a thorough review, the bill will go to the Guardian Council before being passed as law.

According to head of the State Welfare Organization (SWO), Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpei, by the year 2050, the country’s elderly population will increase to 25% of the total population and equal the number of children.

The most important demographic finding in the last census in Iran showed a remarkable change in the number of elderly which increased from 7.22% in 2006 to 8.20% in 2011. The population then was 75 million and comprised 50.4 % male and 49.6% female.

At present, there are 6.2 million senior citizens in the country.

“Increasing the population growth rate should go hand-in-hand with an elderly-friendly community,” he added.