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Iran's Cabinet OKs Bill To Protect Women From Violence That Critics Say Falls Short

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).