Tehran : Just weeks before the one-year anniversary of the major protests caused by Mahsa Amini’s death, Iranian authorities are preparing a new Bill on hijab-wearing that experts fear would put unprecedentedly harsh punitive measures into law, according to CNN.
The 70-article draft law sets out a range of proposals, including much longer prison terms for women who refuse to wear the veil, stiff new penalties for celebrities and businesses who flout the rules, and the use of artificial intelligence to identify women in breach of the dress code.
Experts said the Bill, which has yet to be passed, was a reminder to Iranians that the regime will not back down from its stance on the hijab despite the country’s enormous protests last year, according to CNN.
The Bill was submitted by the judiciary to the government for consideration earlier this year, then forwarded to the parliament and subsequently approved by the Legal and Judicial Commission. It is set to be submitted to the Board of Governors this Sunday before it is introduced on the floor of parliament, state-aligned news agency Mehr reported Tuesday.
Iran’s parliament would work on finalising the text and voting on the Bill “in the next two months,” Mehr said.
Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman, died last September after being detained by the regime’s infamous morality police and taken to a “re-education centre,” allegedly for not abiding by the country’s conservative dress code, CNN reported.
While not officially disbanded, the morality police had largely pulled back following last year’s protests, which have gradually waned. But earlier this month, police spokesman General Saeed Montazerolmahdi said the morality police would resume notifying and then detaining women who are caught without the Islamic headscarf in public.
The hijab has long been a point of contention in Iran. It was barred in 1936 during leader Reza Shah’s emancipation of women until his successor lifted the ban in 1941. In 1983 the hijab became mandatory after the last shah was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, CNN reported.
Iran has traditionally considered Article 368 of its Islamic penal code as the hijab law, which states that those in breach of the dress code face between 10 days to two months in prison, or a fine between 50,000 to 500,000 Iranian rials, what is today between USD 1.18 to USD 11.82.
The new Bill would reclassify failure to wear the hijab as a more severe offence, punishable by a five-to-ten-year prison sentence as well as a higher fine of up to 360 million Iranian rials (USD 8,508).
That fine is far beyond what the average Iranian could pay, as millions are below the poverty line, Hossein Raeesi, an Iranian human rights lawyer and adjunct professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, told CNN.
Earlier this year, state media reported that cameras would be installed in public places to identify women who violate the country’s hijab law, CNN reported.
Under the new draft law, business owners, who do not enforce the hijab requirement, will face steeper fines, potentially amounting to three months of their business profit, and face bans on leaving the country or participating in public or cyber-activity for up to two years.
Another section states that in order to enforce the new law, Iranian police must “create and strengthen AI systems to identify perpetrators of illegal behaviour using tools such as fixed and mobile cameras.” ( With ANI inputs )