therefore explicitly excludes marital rape.10 Beyond rape, no other form of sexual assault is
specifically criminalized under the Islamic Penal Code.11
As a result, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s legislative framework is insufficient to combat
domestic violence and marital rape.12 In 2017, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human
rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran found that Article 1108 of the Iranian Civil Code, which
obliges wives to fulfill the sexual needs of their husbands at all times, “might even condone
sexual abuse”.13
Reports of cases of violence against women have shown that there is a general lack of
accountability for perpetrators. 14 15 16 According to criminal law in Iran, a crime can be proven
on the basis of three things: the confession of the accused, 17 the testimony of witnesses, 18 and
the knowledge of the judge.19 Victims wishing to file a complaint for rape must present four
adult male witnesses to the assault, or two men and four women witnesses, an evidentiary burden
difficult to meet -if not impossible. In cases where the alleged offender doesn’t confess and the
victim cannot gather the required witnesses’ testimonies, the judge is granted full discretion to
reach a verdict, in theory based on statements from the accused and the victim, police and
forensic reports, etc.
If the judge decides that there hasn’t been rape but a sexual relationship occurred between the
victim and the offender, then the victim may be prosecuted for adultery. Indeed, Iranian law
criminalises sexual relationships outside of marriage or zina. As the legal proceedings rely
extensively on the judge’s knowledge and considering the negative social stigma surrounding
women’s sexuality added to gender discriminations under Shari’a law, women victims of rape
seeking justice risk to be found guilty of zina.
During its last Universal Periodic Review (November 2019) the Government of the Islamic
Republic of Iran stated that the Act on Protection, Dignity and Security of Women against
Violence, will be “aimed at criminalizing new forms of assault, harassment and violations of the
rights of women and adopting preventive and support measures to stop violence against
women.”20 In January 2020, the U.N. Secretary General expressed concerns about the slow


Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, 2020,
Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, 2020,
See more: Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, 2020,
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, 2017,
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 2019,
Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, 2020,
Human Rights Activists News Agency,
According to Article 172 of the Islamic Penal Code, 2013, the accused should confess 4 times in the presence of a judge.
“The standard [of proof] for testimony in all offences shall be two male witnesses; unless in zina, livat, tafkhiz, and mosaheqeh
which shall be proved by four male witnesses” Article 199 of the Islamic Penal Code (2013), Iran Human Rights Documentation
Center, 2020,
Article 160 of the IPC.
Universal Periodic Review, Iran, 2019,


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