Why Iran does not ratify CEDAW? The Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was formally adopted on 18 December 1979 by the United Nation General Assembly. CEDAW requires compliance by governments to ensure equality between men and women and eliminate discrimination against women. Countries that have ratified CEDAW are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also committed to submit reports regularly on measures they have taken to comply. More than 90% of the countries are a party to this convention from which 51 countries are from the Islamic world including Tunisia and Morocco. Yet, there are a few countries, Iran among them, that have not ratified the convention. Iran’s reasons include the government’s belief that the human rights doctrine is not universal but derived from European Enlightenment philosophy and so does not apply to an Islamic society.
There are huge contrasts between CEDAW and Iran’s current Constitutional Law which is highly discriminatory toward women. Iranian officials did discuss twice to ratify CEDAW. Once in 1995-1997 during the presidency of Rafsanjani who believed that the economic and social construction of the country took priority over women’s rights and so the ratification never gained momentum. CEDAW also re-emerged between 1999-2003 during the presidency of Khatami. However, the Guardian Council, which is charged with approving legislation rejected the bill.
This is not a government that supports equality between women and men. This view has resulted in extreme discriminatory practices affecting Iranian women. Women continue to be treated as second class citizens. For example, a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s in court. Women must wear compulsory hijab, and within the family, husbands can legally control whether their wives can have jobs or obtain a passport. This of course has to do with the extreme interpretation of Islamic scripture by the government, and the fact that women’s rights in Iran are in conflict with the interests of a predominately male leadership in a patriarchal society.