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How Iranian women are using Sharia to their benefit

Given the important role that religion plays in Iran, Iranian women are working within the system to gain rights and achieve equality.
Iranian women attend the 28th International Islamic Unity Conference chaired by the Iranian President in the capital Tehran on January 7, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE        (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Iranian women suffered legal discrimination both before and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The main justification for discriminatory laws against women is that they are based on Sharia, and therefore cannot and should not be challenged. For decades, Iranian women have struggled to prove that Sharia does not discriminate against women per se. They challenge the discriminatory rules, arguing that the patriarchal norms and traditions inserted into Islamic law deprive women of equal rights.

For these women, the problem of inequality lies in tradition and the internal contradiction between the ideals of Sharia and the norms of Muslim societies. They stress that the religious edicts harming women’s rights are limited reading of flexible Islamic legal thought. The tactic of involving Reformist scholars to provide alternative interpretations of Sharia has been effective to a large extent in raising public awareness of the origin of these discriminatory laws.

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