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Long Jail Time, Harsh Penalties: What Does Iran's New Hijab Law Say

Iran plans a new Bill on hijab-wearing with harsh penalties. It proposes longer prison terms, high fines, and AI use for enforcing compliance. The move reignites debate over personal freedoms, women's rights and women's autonomy in Iran.

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Harnur Watta
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Image credits: Forbes

Image credits: Forbes

Just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the protests triggered by Mahsa Amini's death, Iranian authorities have introduced a new draft Bill on hijab-wearing, drawing concerns from experts who believe it could usher in unprecedentedly severe punitive measures. 
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According to CNN, the 70-article draft law proposes longer prison terms for women who refuse to wear the veil, stiff penalties for celebrities and businesses violating the rules, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to identify offenders of the dress code.

Despite the massive protests last year, which shook the nation after the death of 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, Iranian authorities are resolute in their stance on the hijab, as the new Bill highlights. 

The draft law, presented by the judiciary earlier this year and subsequently approved by the Legal and Judicial Commission, is set to be submitted to the Board of Governors this Sunday before being introduced on the parliament floor, as reported by state-aligned news agency Mehr on Tuesday. 

The parliament aims to finalize the text and vote on the Bill within the next two months.

Last September, Mahsa Amini's death occurred after her detention by the regime's morality police and subsequent transfer to a "re-education centre" allegedly for not adhering to the country's conservative dress code. 

While the morality police appeared to have retreated following the protests, they announced their intention to resume notifying and detaining women caught without the Islamic headscarf in public earlier this month.

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The hijab has been a contentious issue in Iran for decades. Reza Shah had prohibited it in 1936 as part of his efforts to emancipate women, but the ban was lifted in 1941 by his successor. 

After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the hijab became mandatory. 

The New Hijab Bill proposes Harsher penalties

Iran's Islamic penal code, Article 368, has traditionally governed hijab-related offences, with penalties ranging from 10 days to two months in prison or a fine between 50,000 to 500,000 Iranian rials.

However, the new Bill seeks to significantly increase the severity of the offence. 

Refusing to wear the hijab could be punishable by a five-to-ten-year prison sentence and a higher fine of up to 360 million Iranian rials. 

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Such a fine would pose an enormous burden for the average Iranian, particularly considering the widespread poverty in the country.

To enforce the new law, Iranian police will be required to strengthen AI systems for identifying violators, utilising tools like fixed and mobile cameras. State media previously reported on the installation of cameras in public spaces to monitor compliance with the hijab law.

Furthermore, the draft law imposes harsh penalties on business owners failing to enforce the hijab requirement. 

They may face fines amounting to three months of their business profits and potentially be banned from leaving the country or participating in public or cyber activities for up to two years.

As the Bill awaits approval and potential enactment, it has stirred debate and anxiety among Iranians regarding the future of personal freedoms and government control over their attire choices. 

The proposed measures have sparked concerns about potential violations of human rights and the impact on women's autonomy in the country.

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Iran #Mahsa Amini hijab
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