Iranian Parliament Approves Amended "Family Support Bill"
Monday, September 22, 2008 12:01 PM

By 171 votes to 42, the Iranian parliament has approved an amended version of the so-called “Family Support Bill” by dropping controversial clauses that opponents feared would have encouraged polygamy.

Referred to by women's rights activists as the "antifamily law,” one clause of the bill would have eliminated the need for the consent of a man's first wife if he decides to marry another spouse. Instead, the bill would require men to provide a judicial permit for a second marriage that confirms they can provide financially for the new wife and that both wives will be treated equally.

A second clause would have permitted the taxation of money the husband agrees to pay his wife under a marriage contract.

The clauses were vigorously opposed by women's rights activist, political factions and social activists, as well as by some Iranian clergy and the head of the country's judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi.

The changes to the bill met with resistance by some fundamentalist members of parliament and the Iranian cabinet, but women's rights activists generally hailed it as one step in the right direction and as a victory for the Iranian women's movement.

Women's rights campaigner Sussan Tahmasebi is quoted by Reuters as saying "it is a very positive move. We think it is great that parliament listened to women's voices." But she said activists still have problems with other aspects of the bill, such as provisions on women marrying non-Iranians. She said she hopes for a "positive dialogue" with lawmakers.

One deputy from Tehran, Ali Motahari, argued that “polygamy is one of Islam’s glories," adding that a "wife’s permission for a man’s second marriage is against Islamic laws and the parliament should not be influenced by such matters."

Though the bill was approved in totality, debate will continue in parliament about some of its sections.

Copyright (c) 2008. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

Published in: Gorgin, Iraj. “A ‘Positive Move’ for Iranian Women”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 10 September 2008.