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A Campaign: Towards Transforming the Male-dominated Face of the Parliament

translated by: Parisa Asvadi

Sunday 8 November 2015, by admin

Feministschool: In today’s world, our sisters in many countries hold one fifth of all parliamentary seats and are constantly trying to increase their share to fifty percent. These women are not satisfied with occupying parliamentary seats and enjoying the benefits of being parliament members. Their goal is to oversee the legislation process such that no law should be ratified without taking into account the human and social rights of women. In many countries women fight for equal human rights and their numbers in decision making centres is constantly on the rise.

Currently in the Islamic Republic of Iran, women constitute only three percent of parliament members. The parliament is more or less monopolized by men. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the voices emanating from the legislative and decision making centres are obstructive to the equal rights of women. We women are passively witnessing the ratification of laws that instead of empowering women weaken them on a daily basis. Women are half of the country’s population and the parliament’s composition should reflect this reality. Parliamentary membership should not be the exclusive domain of men.

We need our parliamentary representatives to be committed to equal human rights for women and other citizens. It’s because of this that we have initiated our campaign for changing the male-dominated face of the parliament. It’s because of this that we want to publicize our demand for at least fifty parliamentary seats for women committed to equal rights. Women hold critical responsibilities at all levels of society from the household level to economic, social and cultural arenas. It’s now time for the place of women in the legislative body to change commensurate with the responsibilities they hold.

Participation in the political management and legislative processes is a justified demand that has been stipulated in clause 25 of the Islamic Republic’s constitution: “All citizens irrespective of their gender are protected by the law and enjoy political, economic, social and cultural rights consistent with Islamic standards†.

On the other hand, one of the goals of the “Millennium Development†document which was signed at the assembly of the heads of governments in the year 2000 is gender equality and the empowerment of women. In the assembly of the heads of governments in 2005, at which the Iranian president was present, this document was once again confirmed. The countries which had signed the Millennium Development document were to make the goals stated in this document a reality by year 2015. The road map for the Millennium Development document which was presented by Kofi Annan – then the UN Secretary General – clearly specifies that by 2015 all signatories to the document, including the Islamic Republic, are to allocate up to 30 percent of their parliamentary seats to women. We ask why the Islamic Republic is not committed to the goals of a document it is a signatory of?

Towards an active presence of women in the parliament

Backed by more than hundred years of women’s struggle for women and other citizen’s legal and social rights in Iran, we want to force government representatives to be accountable to the people and marginal groups, and not only to the powerful. If attracting women’s votes is the government’s goal, it needs to enable women’s participation in legislative and policy setting processes.

We want to announce:

  Even in the most difficult conditions it’s possible to be hopeful about change
  Women can be positive and effective citizens in all circumstances
  The harsh, male dominated face of politics can be changed to a fresh, multi-dimensional face

The fulfilment of the above goals depend on our ability to utilize maximum capacity in vigilance and daring in trying new and diverse approaches. Experience demonstrates that the spaces and openings left unattended by women have immediately been occupied by misogynist forces. This has led to a constant increase in limitations, discriminations and violent responses to women. The success or failure of this action depends on each and every one of us women in all corners of Iran. It depends on women who deeply believe that “if we want to, together, we can†.

To advance the goals of this campaign the following three committees will be formed: 1) I will be a candidate 2) Fifty seats for equality seeking women 3) Red card for misogynist candidates.

1) I will be a candidate committee: the right to elect is not enough. We seek the right to be elected.

The central axis of the activity of this committee is ‘the right to be elected’. Considering the massive, innumerable hurdles against women and in order to facilitate the entry of at least fifty women into the parliament, thousands of women who believe in justice and equal rights for women need to become candidates.
The members of this committee would have two goals: encouraging women to become candidates and supporting equality seeking candidates. The activities of this committee will be as follows:

 Identifying able women from various sectors in society and encouraging them to become candidates
 Seeking assistance from all non-government organisations to introduce women to the campaign
 Holding workshops about women’s rights and the parliamentary codes for candidates
 Writing bills for changes to existing, discriminatory laws with the assistance of the lawyers cooperating with the campaign. This will enable a speedy start to the activities of women who might be elected as parliament members
 Negotiating with and encouraging political parties and societies to increase the number of women in their list of candidates
 Organizing cultural and arts activities to introduce candidates to the public

2) The 50 seats for equality seeking women committee

This committee will be formed to change the male dominated face of the parliament. The central axis of the activities of this committee will be to promote the idea of fifty seats for women in the parliament with the public. Those who demand more seats for women can publicly advertise their goal. In the committee various issues will be raised. For example:
 Do I have to be a man to become a member of parliament?
 Women’s demands from the parliament
 Each equality seeking Iranian women is an election campaign director
 Preparation of promotional film clips for promoting our demand for fifty parliamentary seats for women

3) The Red card for misogynist candidates committee

In this committee we will analyse the track record of potential candidates for the public so that they know who they should vote for. In order to do this, we would observe the life and political opinions of each candidate and produce weekly reports for the public. We will also attempt to do the following:
o Questioning all candidates on women’s issues and the bills which have been previously ratified by the parliament.
o Interviewing the candidates wives and/or daughters

Towards a parliament that supports women’s rights

In the next four months and until the time that the candidates are approved, we, along with all who will join this campaign will do our utmost to advance the goals of this campaign. We hope that the approbatory supervision process, common in the Islamic Republic, will not become a hurdle in the election of male and female equality seeking candidates.

A group of women civil society activists