Domestic Violence against Single and Married Women in Iranian Society
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology Los Angeles, California August 2009
By: Azad Moradian
The following paper is an overview of the current statistical picture of domestic violence experienced by both single and married women within Iranian society. Although numerous independent studies on domestic violence against women and children have been conducted on small scales in Iran, they have never been widely published or utilized due to political issues. The discussion in this paper are directly derived from the only widely accredited research carried out on a massive scale, supported and funded by the Iranian government in order to tackle the issue of domestic abuse.
Since the study is currently only available in Farsi, this paper is in part an attempt to make the information available to a wider audience. Furthermore, it attempts to look for underlying etiology to better understand the crisis women face within the complex geopolitical, economical, religious, ethnic, and social arena, which makes up modern day Iran. As cited in the 2006 report of the U.N. Secretary General on UNIFEM’s site, “violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her.” Iranian society, held up by its women, is being crippled through their suffering.
Domestic Violence against Single and Married Women in Iranian Society, An Overview of Current Iranian Research and Possible Underlying Etiology
Definition: The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence begins their fact sheets with the following words: “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. Violence against women is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, and thus is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and sometimes death. The consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and truly last a lifetime.” Following this statement, the organization provides harrowing statistics about women who suffer from domestic violence nationally and the adverse effect of the children who witness this violence. For the most part, it is safe to argue, that culturally, it is not acceptable to engage in violence towards women openly. Physical assault is punishable by law and also has its social consequences of shaming; although, many liberal and democratic societies still struggle with the double standards and lack of gender equality. Those deeply rooted inequalities can account for the high numbers of domestic abuse within such societies as the United States and even European nations.
Background: In Iranian society domestic violence takes on an entirely different shape. Women are not only subject to harsh treatments by an authoritative state, which rules on every aspects of their public lives, but it also provides the arena and encourages the control of their private lives. The government does so by promoting fundamentalist ideas of women as properties of me. It does so by setting up an unequal legal system and not punishing assault even when it has resulted in severe injury or at times even death. The conversation of domestic violence then cannot be simply domestic but begins to take the shape of a systematic violence, fueled by tradition, ignited by religion, encouraged by the dominant authoritarian state, and empowered by poverty and illiteracy.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has always denied the existence of domestic abuse, violence towards women and children in the family as a sociological issue within Iranian society. Most of the violence in the family is deeply tied to the societal and governmental laws of inequality towards women. Most violence towards women even has governmental sanctions, such as flogging or imprisonment, and even in some cases death for adultery. If the regime accepted domestic abuse as a problem, it had to also address the way it enables, allows, encourages, and ignores, violence towards women. Human rights organizations, political/humanitarian oppositional groups and advocacy groups for women were the only voices that acknowledged the existence of this widespread phenomenal in Iran and fought for changes in law and education within communities. Due to the large percentage of women in higher education, and the Universities in Iran, in the past 15 years the numbers of Masters’ and PH.D thesis on women’s issues have been overwhelming. Universities are now even discouraging students from researching on the topic of women’s issues, due to the fact that the findings are not implemented into improvements or societal progress. The papers simply sit in libraries and collect dust, which can be very discouraging.
Up until recently, there was no official statistical data on how many women suffered from domestic violence in Iran and what shape or form it was in. The common law dictated that what happens in the house has to stay in the house. A man’s household affairs very much belongs to him and other’s can not meddle in his private issues, especially regarding how he treats his wife and children. The way to continue keeping his privacy is through the silencing of the voice of dissent: women. This policy very much resembles how the Islamic Republic deals with political unrest in Iran and International outrage. We often hear that the West should not interfere or have an opinion with the way Iran deals with its people.
The Census Bauru in Iran, which is an official government agency has never conducted a study on domestic violence and has not allowed international organizations to do so either; however, in 2004 The Women’s Center for Presidential Advisory, The Interior Ministry, and The Ministry of Higher Education decided to undertake a project in Iran’s 28 provinces, regarding domestic violence in Iran. A 32 volume study was concluded after several years. These volumes include findings regarding violence towards women and children, family issues, divorce, and marriages, remarriages, the statues and effect of education and work on violence in the capital cities of each province. Only the main cities were visited and the research was conducted based on questionnaires. These 32 volume findings are not widely available for public viewing; however, it is available to scholars and researchers as a reference at the Center for Research in Tehran. The information has also been shared with government agencies and lawmakers in the hopes of changing family laws.
Much discussion and controversy has surrounded the study, including the bias of the researchers themselves in their findings. This massive study was led by Iran’s renowned sociologist Dr. Ghazi Tabatabaei, who is still a professor in Tehran universities. Many other well-known researchers/ scholars, sociologists, psychologists, and professionals in other areas participated and contributed in this study. A brief summery of some of the findings:
Due to the fact that Iran is a multi ethnic/ multi cultural country and is very diverse, the findings of the study show that the results from each province differ from each other very much. The study clearly shows a correlation between violence against women and living in provinces further away from the capital; which could be explained from many angles including economically, sub-cultures of the region, dominance of religion, and lack of higher education.
The research had 9 main categories and 45 subcategories. The 9 categories include:
1. Verbal Abuse 2. Physical Abuse 3. Emotional Abuse 4. Economical Abuse (refusing her right to have a job, restricting her opportunities, taking her income, restricting allowance, etc.) 5. Legal Abuse (a husband has a legal right in Iran to take his wife’s full rights away, by restricting her from traveling, going out of the house, etc.) 6. Educational Abuse (restricting the right to go to school) 7. Neglect (restricting food, not feeding/adequately providing for a family) 8. Sexual abuse (unwanted sexual activity within a marital relationship, including rape, forced pregnancy, forced abortions, restricting wife’s access to healthcare and birth-control, extra-marital affairs) 9. Honor killings and Murder
Based on the study 66% married women in Iran are subjected to some kind of domestic violence in the first year of their marriage, either by their husbands or by their in-laws.
All married women who were participants in this study in Iran have experienced 7.4% of the 9 categories of abuse. 5.23% of married women in the study reported having experienced near death violence or feared for their lives due to domestic violence. 8.37% of married women in the study reported having experienced severe physical abuse. 7.27% of married women in the study reported having experienced educational and career restrictions. 2.10% of married women in the study reported having experienced sexual abuse; however, this number could be severely under reported due to the taboo surrounding the topic. From these 2.10% who reported sexual abuse, 5.2% reported having a miscarriage due to severe beatings by her husband. 52% of married women in the study reported having experienced emotional abuse. 9.63% of women in the study reported wishing their husbands would die, as a result of the abuse they have experienced.
The study shows a direct correlation between women who have a higher education and are career women and experiencing a lower level of domestic violence. The study also shows that the higher the number of children in a family, the more likely domestic violence will occur towards the woman. The chief of police in Iran stated that 40% of all murders in Iran happen due to domestic violence and that 50% of all women who are murdered are done so by someone in their immediate family and mostly in the very home of that woman. More often than not, defenders of men who have killed their wives bring up that the husband was suspicious of adultery. The law is very lenient and is ready to forgive men while punishing women.
The discriminatory laws in Iran may yet claim another victim to be executed by stoning to death for the “crime” of adultery. There are 8 cases in Iran on the brink of death through stoning anytime soon and one such case is that of a woman named Kobra Najjar a victim of domestic violence, for 12 years was beaten repeatedly and forced into prostitution by her husband to support his heroin addiction. Kobra Najjar found herself in prison when Habib, a “client” of Kobra seeing her sorry plight decided to murder her husband. Habib was sentenced to death by the Tabriz High Court for the murder together with Kobra Najjar as an accomplice. What makes this case unusual and deranged is that it shows the disparity and unequal treatment of women under a penal system favoring men over women. Serving eight years for the murder and 100 lashes for fornication Habib was released upon paying compensation to the victims’ heirs. In contrast Kobra Najjar who has also served eight years remains in prison her fate uncertain as she faces the prospect of being stoned to death anytime for adultery. Now how sick is that, forced into prostitution but under Iranian’s Discriminatory laws against women she is guilty of adultery even though she was systematically subjected to violence to force her into submission for prostitution. In Iran’s perverted justice system under Article 83 of the Iranian Penal Code, a married person is committing adultery when they have sexual intercourse with anyone other than their spouse.
Adultery is the only crime where women is sentenced to stoning and all sexual intercourse outside of marriage is illegal that can result in flogging, or hanging for the forth offense. Now how perverted is that? Kobra Najjar under constant beatings was forced into prostitution clearly did not have any choice or say on the matter was definitely a victim. She is seen under the cross eyed Iranian sadistic judge who obviously sees only the sexual intercourse but not the circumstance of one who was victimized. It does not matter whether she was forced through coercion and violence she is an adulterer therefore deserve to die the most painful savage medieval death by stoning. In Iran a 13 year old girl is old enough to legally marry and considered as an adult at age 8 years and 9 months, old enough to be sentenced to stoning, flogging and hanging for adultery and fornication. Iranian gender biased law favors men where pedophiles are likely to prevail over the girls and women they victimized facing the risk of being convicted should they go to courts.
Women and girls face insurmountable obstacle in getting a divorce, forced to stay even if she was in an abusive marriage and most likely lose custody of her children above age 7 to her husband and the children’s paternal grandfather. In contrast men can marry up to 4 girls and woman and can divorce them at will. The rules of evidence make it extremely difficult for women to prove their case in court should the wife decides to file a case of domestic violence her testimony is only worth half of a man’s testimony. Rape is even more impossible if not incredulous under Iranian rules of evidence; her testimony as if half its worth of a man is not bad enough has to be corroborated by men in order to prove her claims. Under this scenario a rape victim is at the mercy of her rapist and most likely end up getting sentenced for adultery, now that is truly disgusting.
References in Farsi
جانشین معاونت ناجا:آمار قتلهاي خانوادگي در ايران روبهافزايش است –. (n.d.). In مجله زنان. Retrieved August 01, 2009, from http://www.zanan.co.ir/spip.php?article1021 وضعيت خشونت در خانواده در ايران. (n.d.). In وضعيت خشونت در خانواده در ايران. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from http://www.pezeshk.us/?p=2900 داوری, �., & سلیمی،, �. (1386). جامعهشناسی کجروی. تهران: انتشارات حوزه و دانشگاه. خشونت مرگبار خانوادگی |. (n.d.). In انجمن جامعهشناسی ایران. Retrieved August 01, 2009, from http://www.isa.org.ir/node/1709
References in English
Afifi, T. O., Enns, M. W., Cox, B. J., Stein, M. B., Jitender, S., & Asmundson, G. J. (2008).
Population attributable fractions of psychiatric disorders and suicide ideation and attempts associated with adverse childhood experiences. Population attributable fractions of psychiatric disorders and suicide ideation and attempts associated with adverse childhood experiences., 98(5), 946-952. Retrieved May 11, 2008, from PsycINFO.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FACTS. (2007, July). In National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved July 28, 2009, from http://www.ncadv.org
Facts & Figures on Violence Against Women – Say No to Violence against Women. (2007, November).
In UNIFEM – United Nations Development Fund for Women. Retrieved July 28, 2009, from http://www.unifem.org/campaigns/vaw/facts_figures…. Renner, L. M., & Markward, M. J. (2009). Factors Associated with Suicidal Ideation Among Women Abused in Intimate. Factors Associated with Suicidal Ideation Among Women Abused in Intimate, 79(2), 139-154. Retrieved April, 2009, from [EBSCOHost]. A Safe Place: domestic violence shelter, counseling, and help programs. (n.d.). Retrieved August 01, 2009, from http://www.asafeplaceforhelp.org World: Violence Against Women — In Iran, Abuse Is Part Of The Culture. (n.d.). In Payvand, Iran News, Directory and Bazar. Retrieved August 01, 2009, from