Controversy Engulfs Multiple Iran’s Female Lawmakers

Separately, in a third controversy, some media outlets have questioned the legality of Soheila Jelodarzadeh’s candidacy. Jelodarzadeh successfully ran as No. 3 on the 30-member Reformist “List of Hope” in Tehran. Iranian election laws require candidates to quit state jobs at least six months ahead of their candidacies. Critics say Jelodarzadeh has been working as a consultant to the Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade despite running for office. However, the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade has released a statement denying the accusation, adding that she resigned in June last year. The dispute has yet to be resolved.

A long struggle

Women have tried to enter the Iranian political arena throughout the 37 years since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. In the executive branch, women have held senior positions. For instance, in the current administration, the vice presidents for Women’s and Family Affairs as well as Legal Affairs are both women, in addition to the head of the Environmental Protection Organization.

Moreover, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the first — and the last — head of government who proposed three women for ministerial portfolios, although only one of them, gynecologist Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, garnered enough support in parliament to be confirmed as the first female health minister of Iran.

In the legislative branch, the picture is far gloomier. Over the past three decades, a grand total of 78 women out of the 2,954 legislators have been in office. This is equivalent to a male-female ratio of 20:1. The fifth parliament (1996-2000) saw the highest number of female members of parliament, at 14. This record is, however, likely to be beaten as 14 women were elected in the Feb. 26 vote, with eight more set to compete in runoffs to be held next month.

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