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Iran's parliament, the Islamic Consultative Assembly, on Wednesday gave initial approval to a law requiring hospitals to fully segregate all health services offered to men and women. This move at widening the system of gender apartheid puts women's health in severe jeopardy because there are not enough women doctors across the country to attend to women's needs. The regime must be stopped from putting in danger the health of 30 million women by taking away their access to health care.

Recently, the parliament also passed a law that prohibits the press from using pictures of women, even when fully veiled, on the publication's front page. The law also makes illegal discussions of women's issues or rights outside of the requirements of the Shari`a (Islamic law) as interpreted by the ruling clerics. This law will endanger activists, journalists, writers, publishers, in fact any one who seeks to improve women's status.

After the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979, it instituted forced veiling for women under the penalty of flogging and imprisonment, and gender segregation in all public spaces. It excluded women from numerous fields of study and employment, nullified the family protection law that gave women rights within the family, reduced the minimum legal age of marriage for women to nine, and passed a penal code that includes stoning of women suspected of adultery. Despite the regime's oppressive measures, women resisted and forced it to withdraw in certain areas. It has now begun once again to extend the parameters of its gender apartheid policies.

In 1997 President Khatami was elected to office by the overwhelming votes of women who expected him to ease the policies of gender apartheid. However, nothing tangible has yet occurred. On the contrary, the tension between civil society and the regime is increasing. The regime has consistently tried to limit women's freedom of movement and access to public institutions. Women have been resisting and fighting back. In the past, the regime has had to withdraw in many areas under pressure from domestic and international forces. It is imperative that the international community makes its position known on this issue in support of Iranian women.

Action Requested: Please write to the Iranian authorities expressing your support for the women of Iran, and urging them to rescind these laws which will reinforce gender apartheid in Iran.

Addresses: Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, Office of the President Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection, Tehran, The Islamic Republic of Iran Fax: 98-21-674-790

Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Nateqr-Nouri, President, Islamic Consultative Assembly Imam Khomeini Avenue, Tehran, The Islamic Republic of Iran Fax: 98-21-204-0541

H.E. Mehdi Faridzadeh, Ambassador, Iranian Mission to the United Nations 622 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA Tel: 212-687-2020 Fax: 212-867-7086

( Sisterhood is Global Institute)




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