Iran Parliament Passes Bill Allowing Women Equal Divorce Right

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TEHRAN - Iran's parliament has approved a bill giving women equal right for divorce, a lawmaker said Monday.

The bill, approved by the 290-seat parliament Sunday, amends Iran's Civil Code and allows women to seek divorce in court, a right previously available only to men, female lawmaker Elaheh Koolaee told The Associated Press.

To become law, the bill must be approved by the hard-line Guardian Council, which reviews all laws passed by parliament and oversees elections. No date has been set for its review.

"The bill is the beginning of the realization of part of a reform promise to improve women's rights and change the male-dominated laws that have harmed Iranian women throughout history," Koolaee told the AP.

The amendment defines alimony and allows women to demand housing and health allowances.

Koolaee, a Tehran university professor and advocate for women's rights, said Iran's 12 female parliamentarians had been fighting for "comprehensive changes" to improve women's rights.

Under Iran's Islamic laws, a woman needs her husband's permission to work or travel abroad. A man's court testimony is considered twice as important as a woman's, while men are allowed to keep four wives at once, a right not granted to women.

Women have enjoyed greater freedoms since the 1997 election of President Mohammad Khatami, who appointed a woman as vice president. Other women have been appointed to top government posts, but not Cabinet positions.

The reformist-dominated parliament has already succeeded in lifting a ban on unmarried women to study abroad.

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