Vali-e Faqih and his Female Subjects: Women in the Iranian Constitution
Vali-e Faqih and his Female Subjects: Women in the Iranian Constitution
Fatemeh Sadeghi
Abstract: The 1979 Constitution of the Islamic Republic, which came about after the revolution, abolished many of women’s citizenship rights and reduced them to second-class citizens. How did this happen? What is the role of the Iranian Constitution in restricting women’s rights? How are women and gender defined and redefined by the Constitution? What is the role of the concept of velayat (guardianship) in reducing women to feeble creatures, who are unable to manage their own affairs? Analysing key articles of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, this paper explores women’s citizenship rights in the shadow of the concept of the velayat. It is an attempt to investigate the legal structure of the Constitution of Iran and its implications for women. The paper argues that velayat, and for that matter the velayat-e faqih, is a gendered concept, in two senses. First, it considers women as feeble creatures who are to be ruled by a male guardian; second, it feminises the nation and degrades its status as an agentless creature that is to be ruled and dominated by a male guardian/ruler (vali-e faqih). Whereas people in general are regarded as feeble in this framework, it degrades women’s status even further. This article also demonstrates the limits of constitutionalism and argues that understanding women’s constitutional rights and the situation of women in the Islamic Republic is inseparable from the epistemological and political pre-texts, which define and redefine women as intellectually deficient feeble subjects.

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