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Fourteen-year-old Romina Ashrafi was the victim of an apparent “honor killing" in May 2020.

The Iranian government has passed a bill that criminalizes violence against women, including action or behavior that causes “physical or mental harm” to women.

The bill was passed by the cabinet on January 3, Massoumeh Ebtekar, Iran’s vice president for women’s and family affairs, announced on Twitter, saying the bill was the result of "hundreds of hours of expertise."

The bill, which has been under review since September 2019, will have to be adopted by parliament to become law.

The New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in early December that the draft bill falls short of international standards, despite having “a number of positive provisions.”

“While the draft law defines violence against women broadly and criminalizes various forms of violence, it does not criminalize some forms of gender-based violence, such as marital rape and child marriage,” HRW said in a December 2020 report.

"The draft law also does not tackle a number of discriminatory laws including personal-status laws that lawyers said leave women more vulnerable to domestic violence," the report added.

Media reported that the bill specifies punitive action, including legal punishments, civil redress, and prison sentences for those threatening the physical and mental safety of women.

According to the bill, the judiciary will be tasked with setting up and sponsoring offices that provide support for women who suffer some type of violence or who are susceptible to violence. The bill also requires the establishment of special police units to ensure the safety of women.

An Iran researcher for Human Rights Watch, Tara Sepehrifar, said on Twitter on January 3 that the Iranian parliament "should waste no time in addressing the remaining gaps and pass the draft into law."

The bill follows several cases of violence against women that have caused public outrage, including last May's beheading of 14-year-old Romina Ashrafi by her father, in an apparent “honor killing."

Days after the gruesome killing, Iran passed a law aimed at protecting children from violence.

Iran is one of four countries that have not ratified the United Nations Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Iran is one of the world's leading executioners with at least 251 people being put to death by Iranian authorities in 2019, according to Amnesty International. (file photo)

Iran has hanged two men for "terrorist acts" and another for murder and armed robbery, the judiciary's official Mizan news agency said.

The three were executed in the early morning of January 3 in the southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province, Mizan reported.

Two were identified as Hassan Dehvari and Elias Qalandarzehi, who were arrested in April 2014 after being found with "a large amount of explosives" and weapons, the report said.

The pair were convicted of the abduction, bombing, murder of security forces and civilians, and of working with the Sunni Muslim extremist group Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), Iranian media reported.

The U.S.-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) said the two had been tortured in detention.

Dehvari and Qalandarzehi were also arrested in possession of documents from Jaish al-Adl on "how to make bombs" as well as "takfiri fatwas," terms used by Iranian authorities to refer to religious decrees issued by Sunni extremists.

Jaish al-Adl has reportedly carried out several high-profile bombings and abductions in Iran in recent years.

In February 2019, 27 members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) were killed in a suicide attack in Sistan-Baluchistan claimed by the group.

Sistan-Baluchistan is a volatile area near Iran's borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan where militant groups and drug smugglers frequently operate.

The third man executed was named as Omid Mahmudzehi. He was convicted of armed robbery and the murder of civilians, Mizan said.

Iran is one of the world's leading executioners. Amnesty International said in April that at least 251 people were executed by Iranian authorities in 2019.

Iran is also among a handful of countries that execute juvenile offenders.

Based on reporting by AFP, RFE/RL's Radio Farda, the BBC, and IRNA

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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