Baby (illustration)
Baby (illustration) Thinkstock

Iran is considering two new laws that would strongly discriminate against women without children – in an attempt to increase population growth.

One law is named the "Bill to Increase Fertility Rates and Prevent Population Decline (Bill 446)." It would outlaw voluntary sterilization and block access to information about contraception.

The second law is the "Comprehensive Population and Exaltation of Family Bill (Bill 315)," due to be discussed in parliament next month. If passed, all private and public entities would be forced to give priority, when hiring for certain jobs, to the following, in this order: Men with children, married men without children, and then married women with children; women without children would, presumably, receive what's left.

The bill would also make divorce more difficult and discourage police and judicial intervention in family disputes.

Iranian authorities "are promoting a dangerous culture in which women are stripped of key rights and viewed as baby-making machines," says Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International. 

The first bill, which has already passed in Parliament and is undergoing final revisions, would outlaw a common method of modern contraception in Iran, and would deny women the opportunity to make informed decisions about having children by blocking access to contraception information. Amnesty International fears that, together with the elimination in 2012 of state funding for Iran’s family planning program, more women will seek illegal and unsafe abortions.

The second bill is viewed as having "devastating consequences for women trapped in abusive relationships,” Sahraoui said. It would actually incentivize judges to rule against divorce by offering them bonuses based on how many of their cases result in marital reconciliation. Women in Iran who wish to divorce already need to prove they are facing “unbearable hardship”, while men can divorce without giving any reason.

Amnesty International notes that sexual violence and discrimination against women in Iran is rife. Iran’s Penal Code forbids women and girls as early as nine years old to walk outside without a headscarf or comply with compulsory dress codes. A woman forfeits spousal maintenance if she refuses to comply with the “duties of marriage”, such as leaving the house without permission. Reparations paid for killing or injuring a woman are half those payable for the same harm to a man, and the age of criminal responsibility for girls is just under nine years old but just under 15 years for a boy.