‘Iran’s new penal code unfair to women’

TEHRAN: Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi on Wednesday criticised Iran’s new Islamic penal code, saying it remains unfair to women and uses an ‘incorrect’ interpretation of Islam.

Iran’s parliament adopted the outlines of the new Islamic penal code submitted by the judiciary in September, which is a modified version of the shariah-based law implemented in Iran since 1982. “After 25 years we are still repeating mistakes of the first day,” Ebadi told a meeting and news conference staged by her rights group on the subject. “The criminal laws adopted after the revolution unfortunately took away a woman’s human identity and turned her into a second-class being who is incapable and mentally deranged,” she said.

Ebadi, who became Iran’s first female judge before the 1979 Islamic revolution, deplored the fact that the new law still considers a woman’s life and her testimony worth half a man’s.

“Why doesn’t the court accept my testimony? Is it because men have four eyes and women only two?” asked Ebadi, who is an outspoken critic of the situation of human rights in Iran. “These are incorrect interpretations of Islam stemming from a patriarchal culture,” she said.

The new Islamic penal code, whose details are yet to be debated by parliament, has been criticised for an increased imposition of harsh punishments such as flogging and execution for a variety of crimes. Critics also complain about the unchanged age of legal responsibility, which deems a boy punishable from the age of 15 and is nine for a girl.

The judiciary maintains that the bill has been drawn up with a focus on “correcting the offender, humanitarian policies, preserving citizens’ rights and the use of fair punishments” among other concerns.


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