By Sussan Tahmasebi

The One Million Signatures Campaign, is an effort designed to raise awareness among the public through face to face discussions and collection of signatures of citizen on a petition addressed to the Iranian parliament. The petition asks that laws discriminating against women be reformed and brought in line with international human rights standards. The Campaign, was inaugurated on a hot summer afternoon in late August of 2006 on the streets of Tehran. We had planned to inaugurate the Campaign in Ra’ad Conference Hall, with speakers, celebrity supporters and founders explaining the aims of the effort, but were prevented from doing so.  Instead of holding an inaugural seminar, we collected signatures right there, outside the conference hall, and on the streets, from those who had come to attend our event. We explained our goals and recruited volunteers.  Perhaps it was an appropriate way to start our Campaign, as one of its main aims was to reach ordinary people on the streets, in public spaces, on the metro, on buses, in parks, wherever they could be found.   The women’s movement had been discussing the need to reach the public on the “streets” and in the public space, and despite some attempts at doing so, the activities of the women’s movement in Iran remained confined mostly to conference halls, seminars and  trainings, where the audience often ended up being other activists. The Campaign, despite serious pressures and crackdowns, ended up being the first effort to have a sustained presence on the streets and in public spaces. After all, this was our goal.  In fact the street ended up being the only place that was open to us, as from then on, we were systematically denied meeting space and conference halls. f the Islamic Republic. For example, Iranian women today make up over 60% of university graduates–meaning that women are more educated than their male counterparts. Women are getting married on average at age 25, whereas by law 13 is the legal age of marriage. The birth rate in Iran is very low and on par with many European countries. Further Iranian women today, are doctors, lawyer, journalists, Engineers, teachers, parliamentarians and even truck drivers.  But the law keeps on viewing them as in need of permanent guardianship by fathers and husbands and values them at half of a man. The Campaign sought to address some of these discrepancies. Specifically it sought to ensure  equal rights for women in marriage, equal rights to divorce for women, end to polygamy and temporary marriage, increase of age of criminal responsibility to 18 for both girls and boys, right for women to pass on nationality to their children, equal dieh (compensation for bodily injury or death) between women and men, equal inheritance rights, reform of laws that reduce punishment for offenders in cases of honor killings, equal testimony rights for men and women in court, and other laws which discriminate against women.

 

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