Bank of Cyprus Senior Independent Director

Iran’s embattled but determined women’s rights campaigners are celebrating a rare victory after persuading parliament to scrap a government proposal that would have made it simpler for men to have more than one wife.

Success came with help of a dissenting grand ayatollah who supports women’s rights, as well as from unlikely allies that include prominent conservative politicians.

The government is not expected to take the setback lightly. Four women’s rights campaigners were jailed for six months last week for writing for outlawed women’s websites. Days earlier, a fifth woman activist was jailed for four years. All are leading figures in an international campaign called “One Million Signatures” that is collecting support for equal rights for Iranian women.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s hardline leader, is already smarting from two other bruising run-ins with parliament, where many deputies, albeit fellow conservatives, are highly critical of him. He is under fire in particular over his handling of the economy: inflation is at 27 per cent.

But lawmakers have also latched on to other issues such as the viability of Ali Kordan, his new interior minister, who boasted he had an honorary law degree from Oxford University. The prestigious seat of learning denies having any knowledge of Mr Kordan.

Parliamentary pressure is also mounting against Mr Ahmadinejad over an assertion last month by Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie, one of his vice presidents and closest aides, that Iran was a “friend of the Israeli people”.

The proposal on polygamy was put to parliament last week under Article 23 of the “Family Support Bill”: a title its critics saw as an Orwellian misnomer.

The proposal would have enabled a man to take a new wife without the consent of the first one, which hitherto had been a legal requirement. The amendment would have required a man merely to get a court decision proving he had the financial means to take a second wife, critics said.

Many women, reformists and conservatives alike, attacked the bill, insisting it paved the way for rich men to take a second wife and threatened “the foundation and sanctity of the family”.

Michael Theodoulou, Foreign Correspondent,The National newspaper, September 10, 2008

|||Victory for women’s rights as polygamy law is scrapped
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