Iran’s parliament on Wednesday passed draconian new legislation imposing much harsher penalties on women who break hijab rules, days after the first anniversary of mass protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.
Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman, died last September after being detained by the regime’s infamous morality police, allegedly for violating the country’s conservative dress code.
The so-called “hijab bill” will be enacted for a three-year trial period. It establishes several rules on the use of clothing that, if violated, can lead to up to 10 years in prison.
Women who do not properly wear the hijab in public and men who wear “revealing clothing that shows parts of the body below the breast or above the ankles” would receive fines that gradually increase after repeated violations, the bill says.
The bill also outlines penalties for celebrities and companies that don’t comply.
The Guardian Council, which oversees legislative affairs in the Islamic Republic, still needs to approve the bill before its implementation. All bills passed by parliament must be reviewed and approved by the council to become law.
Some parts of the bill are ambiguous. For example, the legislation does not define what constitutes “semi-nude” in public, a crime punishable by “fourth degree” prison sentences. According to the Iranian penal code, a fourth-degree sentence carries a prison sentence of between five and 10 years and a fine of between 180 million rials ($4,260) and 360 million rials ($8,520).
“Any person who appears naked or semi-naked in public, in public places or on public roads, or appears in a manner traditionally considered naked, will be immediately arrested,” reads article 50 of the new law.
Those who collude with the media and foreign governments to promote nudity, inappropriate hijab or inappropriate clothing face up to 10 years in prison, the new bill adds. Those found guilty of ridiculing or insulting the hijab face a fine, plus a possible travel ban of up to two years, according to the bill.
The bill also targets “socially influential” people who, if convicted of violating the bill, could face the same fourth-degree prison sentence and could be asked to pay between 1% and 5%. of his total assets as a fine.
The bill’s restrictions extend to mannequins and toys, images of which are indecently prohibited.
The controversial bill has received condemnation from multiple human rights advocates. UN experts have said it could amount to “gender apartheid”.
The 70-article bill includes a number of proposals, including the use of artificial intelligence to identify women who violate the dress code.
Experts said the bill was a warning to Iranians that the regime would not back down on its stance on the hijab despite mass demonstrations last year.
Amini’s death sparked nationwide protests that shook the country and posed one of the biggest internal threats to Iran’s ruling clerical regime in more than a decade.
Authorities responded violently to suppress the months-long movement, with widespread reports of deaths, disappearances, and torture in custody.
It is “a clear response to the September protests last fall,” Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at the Chatham House think tank in London, told CNN in August, before the bill was passed. presented in parliament. adding that the establishment was trying to “reassert the authority over the veil and the requirements expected of women.”
According to Hossein Raeesi, an Iranian human rights lawyer and adjunct professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, some of the measures in the bill have already been exercised “illegally” by Iranian security forces, including the police. recent closure of an insurance company in Tehran after some photos of female employees without the hijab circulated on social media.
With this bill, the government would “legalize the illegal behavior” of those forces, Raeesi said.
Iran’s morality police had largely withdrawn following last year’s protests, but in August, police spokesman General Saeed Montazerolmahdi said the morality police would again notify and then arrest women who were caught without the Islamic veil in public.
Wearing the hijab has been mandatory for women in Iran since 1983, after the country’s autocratic monarchy was overthrown by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The new law increases the fines provided for in the current Islamic penal code, where those who violate the dress code already face between 10 days and two months in prison, or a fine of between 50,000 and 500,000 Iranian rials, which today is equivalent to between 1.18 and 11.82 dollars. .
Under the new law, business owners who fail to enforce the hijab requirement will face higher fines, which could amount to three months of their business profits, and will face bans from leaving the country or engaging in public or cyber activities for up to two years.
The bill would also require broader gender segregation at universities (common hotbeds of civil protests) and other public spaces.