Sexual and reproductive rights in Iran: Facts and Figures

Photo: Billboard put up by Tehran Municipality in 2013 promoting large families. The motto in Persian reads “Spring will not arrive with one flower,” using flowers as a metaphor for children. ©IRNA

Women in Iran could face significant restrictions on their use of contraceptives and be further excluded from the labour market unless they have had a child, if two proposed laws are approved, says a new Amnesty International report out today.

You Shall Procreate: Attacks on women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Iran details the extreme lengths the Iranian authorities are going to in order to encourage repeated childbearing in a misguided attempt to boost the country’s declining population figures.

Here are some of the facts and figures behind the report:

Current population of Iran: 78.5 million

Iran’s authorities are seeking to increase the population to: 150-200 million

Iran’s declining birth rate: Seven births per woman in 1980, 5.5 in 1988, 2.8 in 1996 and 1.85 in 2014.

Family planning
Funding for Iran’s Family and Population Planning Programme which previously provided sexual and reproductive health services and information (including dispensing modern contraceptives at subsidized prices) was cut off completely in 2012.

Top three most commonly used types of contraception by Iran’s 21.5 million married women and girls (aged 15-49): 15.05% oral contraceptives, 14.15% voluntary sterilization, 13.77% condoms.

In 1976, only 37% of women were using at least one method of contraception; by 2000 this figure had reportedly risen to 72%.

In 2010 the contraception rate reached a high of nearly 79% for married girls and women living in urban areas and 73.78% for those in rural areas.

Unsafe abortions are the third largest cause of maternal mortality worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, in 2008, 21.6 million unsafe abortions took place globally, leading to the deaths of 47,000 women and disabilities for an additional 5 million.

Around 215,000 maternal deaths could be avoided through the use of contraception according to the UN Population Fund.

17% of women in Iran (age 15-64) are actively engaging in the labour market, either by working or looking for work.

Increasing restrictions on women’s employment opportunities have led to an annual decrease of 100,000 in the number of women in employment over the past eight years.

The unemployment rate for women 16.8% is almost twice that of men 9.1%

Early and forced marriages are common in Iran with 41,226 marriages of girls between the ages of 10 and 14 in 2013-2014, and at least 201 girls under the age of 10.

Between March 2013 and March 2014, more than 2.9 million women received a police warning for their perceived failure to observe the Islamic dress code.An additional 207,053 women were forced to sign a written statement promising not to re-commit the “offence” of “improper veiling” (bad-hijabi). A further 18,081 women were referred to judicial authorities for prosecution and punishment.

Read our full report, ‘You Shall Procreate’: Attacks on women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Iran