Change for Equality


These Laws Aren’t Discriminatory, they’re Supports!!

By Mahsa Shourab

Sunday 29 August 2010

Translated by: Sussan Tahmasebi

[]: For some time now, I have been going house to house to collect signatures in support of the Campaign’s petition and listen to people’s stories. Stories told by young women which are filled with the pain of being considered second class citizens. Stories told by mothers, who don’t even benefit from custody and guardianship rights of their own children. Stories told by women who are denied employment in the fields of their choice. Yes I hear their stories and pain; a pain that is unspoken; a pain filled with a thousand secrets. But these pains only add to my determination and so every day I go to the parks and neighborhoods to collect more signatures. In the midst of all this too, I hear remarks like: "Are these discriminations? No. These are supports that men provide women." these people go on to explain further:

"A man pays his wife alimony because he wants her to live comfortably. A man does not want his wife to work, because he cannot bear to see her endure the hardships of work. A father wants to find the best possible mate for his daughter. This is why a girl must first seek her father’s permission before being allowed to marry!"

In response to these claims, I reply by saying: "what kind of support are these, when women view them as obligatory? How can you call these acts of kindness, when for women they are seen as abuses forcing them to endure hidden and overt violence on a daily basis? Do women have the right to provide similar supports to the men in their lives? Can they prevent their husbands from working or studying, so that they don’t endure any hardships? Can mothers be given the legal right to approve the marriages of their sons in an effort to ensure their happiness?"

Silence takes over in reaction to my comments. People glare at the petition in my hand, and some choose to express their opposition to discriminatory laws by signing it. But there are others who….

I don’t fault those who don’t sign, because from infancy they have heard: "women are weak and can’t defend themselves. Women are emotional as such they are fooled easily, so their testimony in court should not be valid. They have seen that their mothers have always accepted whatever their fathers demanded, either without question or by force of violence. They have always witnessed that women are valued at half the value of men. They have seen that their aunts get half the inheritance that their uncles receive, despite all being the children of the same parents. And they have repeatedly witnessed marriages which took place on the demand of fathers. These people have experienced the inequities in the laws for years, and they have come to believe that this is the law and it is natural, and there exists no other alternative.

But I do believe that these same people, who refuse to support change by signing the petition, will one day ask themselves: Are women really incapable? Should the neighbor girl who has studied for 18 years truly be valued at half the value of her brother, who instead of studying has spent his time loitering on the street corner? Do men really want to support women in this way?

Then they will unexpectedly be reminded of the One Million Signatures Campaign, and they will eventually find me only to say: "we have been coming to this park, where we first met you, in the hopes of finding you once again, so that we can sign the petition of the Campaign and…"

Don’t lock my lips with silence As I have an untold tale in my heart Undo the chains from my limbs As I have a restless heart

Forough Farokhzad

Note: This article was written in the early days of the Campaign but was translated as part of the English site’s anniversary celebration of four years of face-to-face engagement. Translated by: Sussan Tahmasebi

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