Iran’s ban on female presidential candidates contradicts Constitution

Iran’s ban on female presidential candidates contradicts several articles of the country’s Constitution as well as international law and should be removed, Amnesty International said.

Mohammad Yazdi, a clerical member of Iran’s Council of Guardians, a constitutional body responsible for ensuring that legislation adheres to Iran’s Constitution, as interpreted by Iran’s religious scholars and Islamic law, and for vetting presidential candidates has announced that Iranian laws “do not allow women to become presidents”.

Thirty women have registered to stand as candidates for the forthcoming presidential election on 14 June 2013. Women were previously prevented from standing in presidential elections, but there was a chance that the Council could have overturned that situation this time.

The ban on women to run for presidency contradicts a number of articles of Iran’s Constitution, which say there should be equality for all citizens before the law and require respect for the rights of women. It is also in clear breach of Iran’s international human rights obligations.

The recent statement by a member of the Council also contradicts a previous statement made by Dr Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the Spokesman of the Council of Guardians, in 2009 when he said that there was “no legal restraint” on women standing for presidential elections.

“It is beyond belief that women are still being banned from trying to become presidents anywhere in the world,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

“Iran should take a closer look at its own Constitution and the international treaties it has committed itself to uphold and ensure no one is prevented from taking part in the upcoming presidential election because of their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or politically held beliefs.”

Article 115 of the Iranian Constitution, which is also reflected in the Law for the Presidential Elections, stipulates that candidates must be from amongst “religious and political personalities” [Persian: rejal].

It also states that a potential candidate should be of “Iranian origin; Iranian nationality; administrative capacity and resourcefulness” and have “a good past record; trustworthiness and piety; convinced belief in the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the official religion of the country”.

The exclusion of women appears to have been made on an interpretation of the word rejal, used in the wording of Article 115, as meaning “men”.

In previous presidential elections, the majority of candidates registered were disqualified under the article’s criteria, including all women.

Despite discrimination against women in law and in practice, Iranian women have reached high level of education and play prominent roles in the society yet they remain almost completely absent from decision-making positions.

No woman has ever held a position in the Council of Guardians and the Expediency Council, a non-legislative body that resolves disputes between Iran’s parliament and the Council of Guardians.

The election is scheduled for 14 June 2013, with the approved list of candidates announced on Tuesday.