Iranian Men Join A Powerful Campaign To Ensure Their Wives Have Equal Rights

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Imagine a world where men and women were not afraid of each other, where the opposite gender was considered an ally, not an enemy, and we all worked together toward reaching gender equality. Does that sound like an unrealistic goal? Perhaps to many it does, especially when we are constantly bombarded with stories about horrific gender violence, misogynistic attitudes, and inequalities that perpetuate the notion that women are less than men.

On a grand scale it seems like an impossible dream, but a closer look at certain movements can campaigns shows there is a slow revolution happening, especially in areas where equal rights aren’t laid out in law.

You may remember an awesome movement called ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ started by London-based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad in 2014. She created the page as a way for Iranian women to express themselves beyond cultural restraints, by posting images of their uncovered heads holding their scarves in the wind.

It was a bold and powerful statement which resonated with men and women around the world who supported the page in solidarity, getting it to over 800,000 likes.

Within her community, Masih started another powerful movement, this time engaging Iranian men in a very progressive way. It was sparked by an incident which happened around the time the Iranian women’s soccer team were due to compete in the Asian Football Federation Women’s Futsal Championship. Team captain Niloufar Ardalan, who goes by the nickname “Lady Goal”, made a public statement about not being able to compete due to the law which outlines a married woman must obtain her husband’s permission to travel abroad or to even get a passport.

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The incident divided some people but it sparked a huge national debate about the laws which are restricting women which seem unfair, especially in light of the sporting event. Iranian marriage contracts also give husbands the power to determine whether his wife should work and where they lives.

In an interview with My Stealthy Freedom, Niloufar talked about how unfair the standards were, and that she is not trying to shun her family, honor or culture by wanting to compete. As a result, MSF decided to get men to raise their voices in solidarity showing how opposed they are to the notion of dictating basic rights for women such as working and traveling. They created the hashtag #ItsMensTurn as way of encouraging them to take the lead to champion equal rights, rather than it just be a one sided fight with women trying to have their voices heard.

“Iranian men following My Steathy Freedom page can also contribute to our ongoing campaign. You can simply film yourselves or send your photos in which you state that you support your wife’s right to travel freely without necessarily needing your consent,” said the Facebook page campaign message.

“So, now, it is men’s turn. We would like you to say the following: ‘I, as a man, will restore my wife’s right to travel back to her’. How many of you men out there are ready to join this campaign and to encourage others to join in so that we can challenge the backward and shameful laws we have in place?”

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The responses have been posted on the Facebook page, showing men of various ages publicly declaring they believe in a woman’s right to choose and to have rights, period.

Masih Alinejad told BBC news that she verifies each image to make sure they are genuine, and some of them have been liked over 100,000 times! Clearly this has ignited something new amongst Iranian men and it is excited to see how many voices are willing to join the discussion.

Some of the men are pictured with family members, and others are not. One man who took a solo image talked about why some men choose not to include their family members, saying although they are making a progressive statement, they don’t want to risk the safety of their wife and children.

One of the issues relating to marriage contracts which many men and women aren’t aware of, is that they can amend the terms written in it even after it has been signed.

“They need to be aware of what they’re signing, and that they can ask for their rights to be returned. [There are] a lot of open-minded Iranian men who support women’s rights,” she said.

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Some of the men even used this as an opportunity to return ALL rights to their wives: “I’m not an owner but a partner for my wife,” said one of the male participants.

While there aren’t any specific details on how many men support this movement and believe in equality, it is an encouraging sign that there are men willing to speak out publicly against something that prohibits a woman from playing an important sporting championship, and hopefully in turn inspire other men who are yet to join in to challenge any resistance they may have to equal rights.

Here are some more images from the My Stealthy Freedom Facebook Page which we highly recommend you follow. It’s not just the #ItsMensTurn campaign you will find, the page is a wealth of up-to-date current events relating to gender equality for Iranian women.

Oh and in case you were wondering, Iran made it to the finals of the Asian Football Federation Women’s Futsal Championship, where they beat Japan 1-0!

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  1. Pingback: #MenInHijab | IRAN 24/07

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