New methods of activism for a 21st century struggle, Iranian women have gradually transformed the One Million Signatures Campaign from a murmuring movement to a surge of powerful voices, sounding together on the global stage.
In a country marred with conflict both before and after the 1979 revolution a campaign has developed, which abandons ideological differences and transcends political allegiances with one sole purpose: equality for women.
This network of women in Iran has successfully pushed back the passage of the regressive Family Protection Act, first proposed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They later prepared a list of demands for women which they presented to the 2009 presidential candidates.
The One Million Signatures Campaign coordinates a network of women who are striving for change.
One aspect of the Campaign is to reverse the Iranian Penal Code’s legislation regarding polygamy.
Discrimination against women is written into the law in Iran, defining women as second-class citizens from the moment they are born. With laws of marriage permitting polygamy, for example, women are constantly on edge about their future and suffer humiliation and instability due to this double standard.
The legal changes which the campaign strives for will pave the way for attitudes towards Iranian women in their home country to change.
A man who murders an allegedly unfaithful wife is eligible for reduced punishment, while a woman brought before the law for adultery can be stoned to death.
These archaic laws are primal in the sense that they lend themselves to the sexual desire of men and the purpose of procreation, yet they disregard the importance of family, nurture and mutual love.
The Campaign admit that changing unjust and humiliating laws is not a unanimous priority amongst Iranian women. Yet, it is an inherent desire of all women in Iran to be mobilised and energised, and campaigning against polygamy legislation provides momentum for this goal.
Changing culture matters. Treating women as second class citizens is an ingrained concept of many in Iran: including women themselves. The campaign aims to expel passivity from the hearts of women and to give them hope of change.
Improving access to education is important. Raising the level of knowledge of the situation for women in Iran is imperative. And with 64% of university students in Iran being women, it would seem that progress is being made.
In some ways, this projects the archaic legislation preventing women’s freedom in marriage and the difficulties they are faced with in divorce into sharper perspective.
The One Million Signatures Campaign was founded less than four years ago and yet almost every signatory of its charter has been harassed or imprisoned. The price these women are willing to pay for the rights which Western women take for granted every day is truly astounding.
Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani describes the One Million Signatures Campaign as ‘a multidimensional and pluralistic movement that…can and should be judged within the context of all its actions and results.’
The One Million Signatures Campaign is ongoing in Iran. Please lend your support.