Iran's draconian adultery laws hurt women and underprivileged citizens

Farzana Hassan [President, Muslim Canadian Congress]: "The statistics are alarming. Eight women and one man have been sentenced to death over an adultery conviction in none other than, Ayatollah, mullah-ridden Iran. As if criminalizing adultery in the absence of a similar ruling on rape isn't enough of a mockery of justice. Iranian activists and lawyers are rightly outraged that the convictions and sentencing came after the defendants failed to provide adequate defense due to lack of financial resources. But this is hardly the only flaw in the legal system.

The injustice is painfully obvious to lawyers and human rights activists all across the world: When a man fancies other women, he enjoys the religious stamp of contracting polygamous unions, sometimes even temporary ones to satisfy his lustful urges. Women, however, are barred from such practices and immediately tried for adultery if caught in the act; or if their husbands as much as suspect them of "lewd" behavior.

As Iran follows a strict and literalistic interpretation of the Islamic sharia, stoning to death after proof of adultery is usually the stipulated prescription to be implemented soon after sentencing.

And while such policies continue to draw the ire of international human rights agencies [Amnesty International report], Iranian officials insist on enforcing such sentences, be it by stoning, hanging or lashing, as punitive measures to check the incidence of adultery in an Islamic society. On Sunday past, they hanged 29 other people for alleged moral infractions in the capital city of Tehran

Despite inherent injustices in the system towards women in particular, the provincial governments in Iran refuse to relent in such cases due to their archaic and incorrect understanding of religious precept for which no basis exists in the Quran. The punishment is based solely on the compendium of prophetic traditions known as Hadith, which modernist and reformist Muslims regard as a spurious source of Islamic law. Orthodox circles on the other hand, continue to tout these as authentic and indispensable to understanding Quranic inunctions.

The injustice of stoning in Iran is rampant, undeniable and unacceptable. It is about time the Iranian government, both federal and provincial, recognized it as such. And while it is crucial for Muslim men and women to openly denounce such draconian laws, it is equally important for Western feminist and liberal organizations to step up their efforts in fighting such systemic legal, cultural and social inequalities. Such laws affect not only women, but underprivileged men lack the wealth of their rich peers who often dodge the law through bribes and cash endowments.

The prophet Mohammad exhorted Muslims towards an equal dispensation of the law, whether it applied to the rich or poor. He further stated that no community could thrive and prosper unless this principle was upheld to the letter.

The Ayatollahs of Iran have forgotten the inspiration and moral decency of these words. Not only have they failed to address the question of poverty and social inequality in their communities, they have led a reign of terror against the poorest and most marginalized segments of Iranian society by enacting and savagely implementing these "laws."

The nine Iranians convicted and sentenced for adultery must be released immediately. Adultery must be de-criminalized in Iran and any other country for that matter deeming it to be a criminal offense. A civilized society, which delivers justice equally and dispassionately to the weak and downtrodden of society, would not dispense such punishment."

 

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