Women Lawmakers Moving Ahead

The women MPs have managed to push through important bills in the chamber that remained unaddressed for years, and are working to establish a think tank for women’s issues in the Majlis Research Center
The 17 women lawmakers have made a rather good head start and the current trends seem promising.The 17 women lawmakers have made a rather good head start and the current trends seem promising.

Seventeen women were elected to the Majlis (parliament) in the 10th parliamentary elections held last February. The 290-member assembly convened in May 2016.

With a record number of female lawmakers, the hopes of women, who comprise 49.3% of the population of 80.4 million, were raised that it would help achieve more support and progress towards gender equity that President Hassan Rouhani had promised in his 2013 election campaign.

There also was expectation among the general public that women’s presence in the lawmaking institution would provide opportunity to push for legislative changes relating to women’s rights and concerns in the society.

The first important step taken by the women legislators was setting up the Women’s Faction closely followed by its statute.

“There was no such document by the women’s faction in the previous assembly,” said Parvaneh Salahshouri, head of the faction, ILNA reported.

Every legislative body must have a statute, a document that states its purpose as well as duties and responsibilities of members, defined and recorded clearly. It determines the body’s mandate and internal protocols on the selection of its head and presiding board; how to devise plans and implement them; and explicates the manner in which it can interact with other organizations.

Also, forming special committees such as social-cultural, economic, political and international affairs in the Women’s Faction, as well as holding 16 regular meetings (two per week), were among the measures taken by the female MPs up to now.

However, one wonders what the outcome of all these factions, commissions, and committees comprising women has been, and whether or not they have brought any tangible change to enhance the status of women as promised.

Although seven months is not long time to assess the performance of the 17 women lawmakers, it appears that they have made a rather good head start and the current trends seem promising for the next 4.5 years of their Majlis term.

  Membership of Councils

Thirteen of the women lawmakers are members of several councils under the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution which is responsible for overseeing and deciding education, research, and technology policies.

Women members of the Majlis also managed to push through important bills in the chamber that remained unaddressed for years.

First was the single-priority bill to grant Iranian nationality to children of Iranian mothers and non-Iranian fathers, which was approved in an open session in September. The bill ‘Optimization of Iran’s Immigration and Citizenship Laws’ called for revision of laws related to migration and citizenship that would grant nationality and citizenship to children of Iranian mothers and non-Iranian fathers.

The second was a bill to reduce working hours for “women under special circumstances” that was given a backseat in the Majlis for over four years. The general outlines of the bill passed by the previous assembly last February, allows working women who have children under 6 years of age or children or spouses suffering from severe disability or rare diseases, and female breadwinners to work 36 hours a week for the same salary and benefits of the full-time 44-hour-job per week.

  Sports Facilities

The four female MPs in the Integration Commission made great efforts for the allocation of 0.25% of VAT (equal to 130 trillion rials or $330 million) to expand public sport facilities (including in parks), as well as issues pertaining to women and youths.

Increased cooperation and coordination with non-government organizations as well as experts in the field of women to identify the existing social issues and help resolve them, were also among the main areas of focus of the Women’s Faction.

The faction has also worked on a bill to protect women against violence, in particular better legal ways to deal with acid attacks that increased in incidence last year in some provinces. The ‘Comprehensive Bill on Ensuring Protection for Women Against Violence’, devised by a team of legal experts at the Vice Presidency is currently under review in the Majlis.

Negotiations to establish a think tank for women’s issues in the Majlis Research Center, reviewing workplace rules and regulations for women, and how to implement insurance for housewives, are on the agenda.

“Productive sessions have been held with the Labor Minister Ali Rabiei, Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, and the head of the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee Parviz Fattah,” said Salahshouri.

Additionally, four faction members were invited to be part of the International Organization of Parliaments (IPU) and Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA).

Established in 1889, the IPU is the focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue and works for peace and cooperation among peoples and for the establishment of representative democracy. The APA provides a forum for parliamentarians to exchange views, ideas and experiences for developing common strategies for promotion of peace in Asia and the world.

“The Women’s Faction regularly prepares reports on the health status of women, particularly in remote areas, and presents it to the Majlis to take appropriate action,” Salahshouri was quoted as saying.


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