New Zealand News recently ran a chilling story about how the Iranian legal system devalues the lives of women. The story centered around Tehran-based human rights lawyer Hadjimashhady whose daughter was killed in a car accident in 2002 after a 70-year-old opium addicted truck driver fell asleep and ran a stop sign.
Under Iranian law, Hadjimashhady was entitled to blood money from the family of the driver, but because the victim was a woman, he was only entitled to half the blood money that would have been required had the victim been a man.
Hadjimashhady told The New Zealand Times that he wasn’t interested in the blood money, and that the differing rates for men and women make the whole affair even more bizarre,
I don’t want the dieh [blood money]. Janooreh [the truck driver] doesn’t have any money, he wasn’t insured, and he doesn’t have any family. But this law, this is a reactionary law. It is something that belongs in medieval times, I think.
A group of female Members of Parliament in Iran are campaigning to equalize the monetary amounts. They note that while the system may have made sense in a traditional, nonindustrial society — where the death of a man could mean the death of the primary income provider in the family — that it is insulting to women in contemporary Iran.
Fatemeh Rakei of the Iranian Parliament’s Committee for Women’s Issues also cites a similar religious tradition called quessas, in which if a woman murders a man the mans’ family can demand vengeance (i.e., the death of the woman), but if a man kills a woman, the woman’s family must first pay the man’s family half of the man’s blood money before demanding vengeance.
Rakei told The New Zealand News that she believes this has led to an increase in wife killing since many families simply can’t afford to pay the blood money.
The price of women. Tim Elliott, The New Zealand News, February 15, 2003.