Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation


Organized and Institutionalized Sexual Exploitation and Violence

Policy and Law

The "Press Law and Women Bill" was ratified into law on the 13th of August 1998 in Iran; it is the Fifth Amendment of Article 6 of the press law. The bill states that, "commercial use of women's image and texts declaring women's issues, humiliation, insult, propagation of formality, use of ornaments, and defending women's beyond the bounds of legal and religious law is forbidden." Violators of the law will be punished with lashes and imprisonment, as well as losing their publication license. Consequences of "Press Law and Women Bill" include:

  • According to this amendment, supporting or defending the rights of women in any publication is strictly banned because it is believed that such arguments create more contention and adversity between men and women. However, men are excluded from the above law. This encourages a culture of male chauvinism.
  • The ratification of this bill does not allow any criticism advocacy, in the press, of the laws governing women's rights.
  • This bill will ban all female images, texts, or arguments for modification of the existing law. Therefore, women's issues are completely invisible in the media.
  • This bill will create conflicts between the clerical community and the press because the law has never defined "commercial use of women's image and text." Therefore, the subject is completely left at personal interpretation and judgment. Because of the fanatic nature of Islamic rulers, this amendment means complete elimination of women from public media. ("Iranian Women Brief #2," Association of Iranian Women USA (A.I.W.US), September 1998)

Married Iranian women require their husband's permission to apply for a passport, according to Article 18 of the passport law. In case of an emergency or absence of the husband, the public prosecutor's office can issue the permit within 3 days from the date of the application. ("Iranian Women Brief #2," Association of Iranian Women USA (A.I.W.US), September 1998)

Islamic government does not recognize the divorces and the marriages administered in foreign countries unless they are endorsed by Iranian embassies, consulates, or the rituals are repeated in Iran. The consequences are:

  • If an Iranian married couple immigrate to a foreign country and divorce according to the laws of that country, the divorce is not legitimate for the woman. The process must be repeated in the Islamic embassy or the consulate. If each of the spouses remarries separately after the divorce in the overseas country and travels to Iran, the wife could be arrested and tried for committing adultery. The punishment for adultery is burying the woman in the ground and stoning her to death. However, this does not apply to the man. By law, the man is not in marriage violation.
  • If a couple have children, and the court granted custody of the children to the mother, if they traveled to Iran, the husband could take the children away from his ex-wife because husband is the sole custodian for the children. No custody privilege is granted to women under any circumstance.

If a couple divorce in a foreign country and then travel to Iran to finalize their divorce proceeding, the divorce process for the woman might take years because the consent of the husband is always necessary to finalize the divorce. The husband may go ahead and marry another woman while his case is pending with the first wife. ("Iranian Women Brief #2," Association of Iranian Women USA (A.I.W.US), September 1998)

Under laws imposed after the 1979 revolution, women:

  • Must cover all parts of their bodies (including their hair) except for the face and hands, with loose-fitting garments.
  • Must not wear any make-up.
  • Unrelated couples are not allowed to socialize at all.

The penalties for violating these rules, imposed in the name of preventing social vice, vary from simple reprimands to lashes and payment of fines, and even execution by stoning in the case of illicit sexual relationships. The Iranian Human Rights Working Group (IHRWG) maintains that these laws are in violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaratiion of Human Rights (UDHR), to which Iran is a signatory. ("IHRWG Statement: Social and cultural restrictions in Iran violate universal human rights," Edited/Distributed by HURINet - The Human Rights Information Network, 16 June 1998)

Official Response and Action

On May 18, 1998, some 20 women and girls were arrested by the Iranian police in Tehran for socializing with unrelated men or failing to observe the strict dress code that is mandated for women. These types of arrest have occurred regularly since 1980. In April, 1998, an Iranian girl, detained by authorities on suspicion that she was having a relationship with a man, committed suicide while in detention in the southwest Iranian city of Abadan. ("IHRWG Statement: Social and cultural restrictions in Iran violate universal human rights," Edited/Distributed by HURINet - The Human Rights Information Network, 16 June 1998)


Sheyda Khoramzadeh Esfahani was sentenced to death following her conviction on charges of 'organizing `corrupt gatherings' with prostitutes, alcohol, drugs, music and dance ` and to establish immoral contacts with people in various political bodies.'' She was executed in August 1997. Her husband Abolghasem Majd-Abkahi was reportedly executed in late December 1996 or early January 1997. (Amnesty International, Further information on EXTRA 115/96, 1 July 1998.)

Three women and three men were stoned to death in public in Khazar Abad after a court found them guilty of adultery and prostitution under Iran's Islamic laws. Prostitution and adultery are illegal and punishable by death. The stoning was carried out by local citizens in public in Khazar Abad, near the Caspian Sea. (Salam, "Iran Stones Six to Death," Asociated Press, 26 October 1997)

A 20-year-old Iranian woman was stoned for adultery in Bukan, in Western Iran. Stoning is a death sentence, but she was mistaken for dead and later revived in the morgue. A court official said that an appeal for amnesty has been submitted to the court. ("Young woman survives stoning to wake up in morgue," Agence France Presse, 12 August 997)

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Coalition Against Trafficking in Women
Factbook on Global Sexual Exploitation
Donna M. Hughes, Laura Joy Sporcic, Nadine Z. Mendelsohn and Vanessa Chirgwin