Married Women in Iran Still Need “Permission” to Travel Abroad Under Amendment to Passport Law
An amendment proposed by the Iranian Parliament’s Women’s Block to the country’s Passport Law does nothing to ease state restrictions on married women’s ability to independently travel abroad, a legal expert told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“The proposed amendment still gives the authorities the power to decide whether married women can leave the country or not,” said Farideh Gheirat, a prominent human rights lawyer. “This is essentially the same as the current law.”
“I will be very frank: When I read the news about this amendment, I was surprised that there was nothing new,” she added. “The law still does not give women the freedom to travel.”
On July 12, 2017, the reformist leader of the Women’s Block in Parliament, Parvaneh Salahshouri, claimed the amendment would make it easier for certain categories of married women to travel abroad.
“We have proposed an amendment to Article 18 [of the Passport Law] regarding exit permits for women so that they would be able to travel out of the country under special circumstances,” said the MP.
Article 18 specifies that married women need permission from their spouses, or the local prosecutor in special cases, to travel abroad alone.
“For instance, female academics and diplomats, those with emergencies, athletes, students, pilgrims who want to go to Mecca, those who have lost loved ones abroad, Olympic competitors and others will be listed as exceptions to the law,” she said.
However, no married women would be exceptions to the law—all of them would still require permission from a prosecutor or their husband.
After conceding that the amendment does not remove the permission requirement, Salahshouri said it spells out which women would qualify for that permission. Furthermore, if the prosecutor rejects a request, the applicant could ask a judge for a final ruling if the amendment is approved.
However, obtaining permission from a prosecutor would remain extremely difficult even for the categories listed by Salahshouri.
In fact, Gheirat,a member of Iran’s Bar Association, told CHRI she was aware of only one case of a local prosecutor granting permission to a wife to travel abroad without her husband’s consent.
“There’s a lot of sensitivity on this issue. A woman leaving the country is as important as leaving the home,” she said. “But an educated woman with her own social status should not need anyone’s permission. Men and women should be required to follow the same regulations to get a passport and exit permit.”
“Why should there be different rules for women?” said Gheirat. “Is it because we believe women are inferior? Or that women should be controlled by others? I don’t understand it.”
In May 2017, Iranian authorities intervened to allow two-time Iranian Paralympic gold medalist Zahra Nemati to compete abroad despite her estranged husband’s attempts to force her to stay home.
“My husband’s wish certainly won’t affect me because I don’t travel for personal reasons,” Nemati told CHRI on May 8, 2017. “It’s for a goal higher than a couple’s marital issues.”
Previously, Niloufar Ardalan, the captain of the Iranian women’s national futsal team, was issued a special permit by the judiciary to compete in the 2015 AFC Women’s Futsal Championship despite her husband’s opposition.
“I’m not going abroad for fun,” she tweeted in May 2015. “My goal is to bring home glory for my national flag and my country. I’m a woman and a mother and I won’t forego my rights for being either one.”