Emerging Post-Islamist Discourse on Women's Rights in the Contemporary Iran

By Hisae Nakanishi
Submitted to Session P4975 (Women and Contemporary Politics, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
The objective of my paper is to examine how women’s political and economic participation has been publicized under the Rouhani administration. An analysis is made how women related bills have been debated both in the parliament and in the civil society since the establishment of the Rouhani government in 2013 to present. It is generally conceived that not much progress has been made in women’s rights in the family and women’s political and economic participation since the end of the Khatami’s administration. This has been mainly attributed to the growing power of neo-conservative factions in Iran’s politics during the period of President Ahmadinejad. The emergence of the Rouhani administration is considered a victory for the moderate faction. Yet, Rouhani government has also now witnessed some degree of the revival of the conservative’s powers because the economic sanctions had not been lifted by the US as was agreed in the final nuclear agreement (the JCPOA). Despite this trend of the growing conservativism in Iran’s politics, women’s political and economic participation has been set as one of the important national strategies for economic recovery of the state, and thus has been promoted. Within this context, a new discourse has emerged. Women parliamentarians and Shahindokht Molaverdi, advisor to President for women and family affairs have voiced the concept of “gender equality” to be achieved in Iran that they justified by emphasizing the need of Iran’s complying with Goal Five of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Addressing the concept of “gender equality” was a taboo in the past but is now publicly permitted. The expansion of the maternity leave and the introduction of paternity leave, the reduction of women’s working hours in public sectors for women with children of 6 years or under 6 years of age, and the question of “Work and Life Balance” were among representative issues that are debated in the parliament and in Zanan-e Emruz (Today’s Women, that was once banned but revived in 2014). The present study will shed light on an emerging women’s discourse on “Work and Life Balance” in the contemporary Iran. The research is based on the text analysis of newspaper articles, the parliament women-related bills, and various articles published in Zanan-e Emruz. This paper will argue that the politicization of women’s issues is distinctively different from the past, neither Islamist nor Islamic feminist orientation but “culturally local but with globally shared value.”