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A veiled Iranian woman attends a religious ceremony in southern Tehran on April 12.
UN experts said in a statement on Friday that a new draft law that would impose harsh penalties on women and girls who do not wear the veil in Iran may amount to “gender apartheid.”
“The bill can be described as a form of gender apartheid, as the authorities seem to be ruling through systematic discrimination with the aim of oppressing women and girls and forcing them into complete submission,” the experts said.
the Proposed legislationThe law, which is currently under review by Iran’s parliament, would impose harsh penalties on women who refuse to wear the veil – including long prison terms.
The 70-article bill also proposes tough new penalties for celebrities and companies who break the rules and use artificial intelligence to identify women who break the dress code.
UN experts say the new law and existing restrictions are “discriminatory in nature and may amount to gender-based persecution”.
The UN panel of experts includes several special rapporteurs, and a working group focused on discrimination against women and girls.
“The weaponization of ‘public morals’ to deny women and girls freedom of expression severely undermines their empowerment and will lead to the entrenchment and expansion of gender discrimination and marginalization, with broader negative consequences for children and society as a whole,” the experts said.
The bill under review by Iranian authorities came just weeks before the one-year anniversary of the mass protests that erupted after the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died after being stopped by Iran’s morality police in Tehran.
A 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman died last September after the regime’s notorious morality police arrested her and transferred her to a “re-education center” for allegedly not adhering to the country’s conservative dress code.
“After months of protests across the country over the death of Gina Mahsa Amini and against restrictive hijab laws, the authorities have introduced a graduated system of punishment targeting women and girls,” the UN experts said.
According to the United Nations, the legislation was submitted to parliament by the government and the judiciary on May 21. After making several amendments that increased the severity of the sentence, on 13 August Parliament voted to allow a parliamentary committee to review it without public. The United Nations said the discussion.
“We urge the authorities to reconsider legislation on compulsory veiling in line with international human rights law, and to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights for all women and girls in Iran,” the UN experts said.
The new bill reclassifies not wearing the headscarf as a more serious crime, punishable by five to 10 years in prison plus a heavier fine of up to 360 million Iranian rials ($8,508). Previously, those who violated the dress code faced imprisonment from 10 days to two months, or a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 Iranian rials, the equivalent today of between $1.18 and $11.82.
Another section states that Iranian police must “create and enhance artificial intelligence systems to identify perpetrators of illegal behavior using tools such as fixed and mobile cameras.”
Business owners who do not enforce hijab requirements will face heavier fines, up to three months off their business profits, and face a ban from leaving the country or participating in public or online activities for up to two years.
Celebrities could face a fine of up to a tenth of their fortune, exclusion from work or professional activities for a set period of time, as well as an international travel and social media ban, if they fail to comply.