Quest for Gender Equity in the Islamic Republic of Iran
Social equity is a broad term including key themes such as racial and gender equity which are contemporary aspirations of both industrialized and underdeveloped societies.
Justice and equity have been the stated goal of all societies, governments, and states. Justice is not only defined in the economic and judicial realm but it undertakes social and political dimensions as well. Social equity is a broad term including key themes such as racial and gender equity which are contemporary aspirations of both industrialized and underdeveloped societies.
Gender equity is an important concept in Islamic theology and jurisprudence, although the concept has faced many interpretations and misinterpretations. Taking stock from the basic teachings of the Holy Quran, gender equity is an inseparable part of narrations on the 'Creation of Adam and Eve' and 'The Eating of the Forbidden Fruit' and many other verses.
Referring to the equal creation of all humans, verse 13 from the Surah Hujarat states that only righteousness is the measure, not gender or race:
'O mankind, indeed we have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Aware’.
Or gender equity in reward: Surah Al Imran 195
"So their Lord responded to them: “I will never deny any of you—male or female—the reward of your deeds. Both are equal in reward…"
Gender equity in earnings or compensation: Surah Nissaa 32:
"And do not wish for that by which Allah has made some of you exceed others. For men is a share of what they have earned, and for women is a share of what they have earned. And ask Allah of His bounty. Indeed Allah is ever, of all things, knowing."
Gender equity in religious and human duties:
“Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so - for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward”.
Many other verses also point to gender equity in creation, in human essence, in virtue and reward. Also, many verses point to family roles, responsibilities, and rights.
As is evident in the Quranic vision men and women are created from a single spirit, equal in their human essence and rights, but different in their family roles. While legal and financial responsibilities lie with the man, certain measures are undertaken to support women in the context of family relationships. The framework of relationships between men and women is divided into the inner circle where relations are based on trust and the social or outer ring where relations are based on contracts. In both arenas, dignity is a basic principle and mutual respect of rights is the basis for equity.
From the onset of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, justice in all its dimensions has been a major overarching objective in policy and planning. The effort and quest for justice have been ongoing facing hurdles and challenges in each phase. Gender equity has been an integral aspect of this quest as manifested in the 6th Development Plan of the country and in relation to laws and regulations.
The 12th Government led by President Rouhani implemented a major strategy to mainstream gender equity during 2017-2021. The initial step was to draw up national indicators for gender equity in a committee with a cross-sectoral consensus. 176 indicators were adopted in 8 chapters and submitted for implementation. Credentials for each indicator were formed in association with the Iranian Statistics Organization.
A set of independent indicators for the Family were also later drawn up and credentials for these indicators are underway in collaboration with the Iranian Statistics Organization.
The next step was to draw up action plans on the basis of these indicators and the state of women and families in each province. For each province, a GIS-based Atlas of Women and Family Statistics was produced as a preliminary document. Terms of reference were sent for each Governor for an agreement to draw up a Provincial Result Based Plan of Action For Advancement of Women and Family. After 9 months of teamwork, 31 provinces adopted an Action Plan for Advancement of Women and Family in the Provincial Planning Commission in the presence of the Vice President and Governor in each case. The Vice Presidency also worked with ministries and organizations to draw up a sectoral plan of action for gender equity in each government establishment. In both provincial and national action plans, the central role of civil society actors, as well as social mobilization and private sector involvement, has been incorporated.
In 2019 most provinces began implementing the Action Plans and reporting on the indicators. A national dashboard for monitoring Gender Equity Indicators was established and officially launched by President Rouhani in March 2020. This dashboard is the official platform for monitoring gender equity and data is regularly imported into its databases from provincial offices.
As a final step in the 12th Government appraisal sessions were held in provinces to assess the implementation of the action plans. During these times, the country has undergone five peaks of the COVID19 pandemic making work in the different dimensions of implementation and oversight very difficult.
Initial assessments indicate that provinces have taken serious measures to close in on the gaps in the eight indicator fields of education, health, sports, economic empowerment, social participation, legal rights, security, and family.
Mainstreaming gender equity has successfully proceeded to lead to change in many indicators at local and provincial levels. These policies need to continue in forthcoming governments in order to continually improve the conditions of women and families at the national level and to ensure gender equity and family prosperity.