Women have been prevented from running for president in Iran for more than 40 years, but that all might change soon.
Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, a spokesperson for Iran’s all-male Guardian Council, said in a recent press conference that women will not be prohibited from entering the 2021 presidential race, according to the Asia Times.
No laws previously banned women from running for president outright, but the literal interpretation of the Islamic Republic Constitution since 1979 has kept them from running successful campaigns.
Article 115 of the constitution says that the president should be chosen from the country’s political and religious “rijal,” which translates from Arabic to “men,” according to the Asia Times.
Despite the requirements for president, women in Iran are allowed to occupy other political positions, including vice president, cabinet minister, ambassador, member of parliament, and provincial director.
Iranian women have tried to run for president in the past but were disqualified each time without a clear reason. In 2001, 47 women tried to enter the presidential race and they were all disqualified, Shahla Haeri, an anthropology professor at Boston University, told the Asia Times.
The Guardian Council’s announcement has received praise from some.
Roja Fazaeli, a women’s studies expert and professor at Trinity College in Ireland, told the Asia Times that she welcomed the news but also acknowledged that it is a political strategy.
“Of course, women should be eligible to run in presidential elections in Iran and should have equal access to leadership positions on par with their male peers,” she said.
Haeri believes the move seems to be a publicity student to encourage voter turnout at a time when many Iranians have lost faith in their electoral process. She anticipates that once women run, they will be disqualified again.
Samaneh Savadi, an Iranian gender equality activist based in the UK, pointed out to the Asia Times that not all women are allowed to run for office. The Guardian Council requires women to wear a formal hijab if they want to be considered for political positions, she said, which excludes women who do not follow strict Islamic dress codes.
The lack of equal representation in the workplace is not limited to public office in Iran. Women only make up 17% of the labor force in the country despite making up 50% of university graduates, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). The gap is attributed to efforts to keep women in the home since the Islamic Revolution in 1978.
HRW urges Iran to pass an anti-discrimination law to prevent gender discrimination in public and private workplaces.