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Iran: New Insurance Law Provides for Equal Compensation to Women in Traffic Accidents

(Apr. 11, 2016) It was reported on March 15, 2016, that Iran’s Guardian Council, a 12-member body that vets legislation to ensure it conforms to Shari’a law, had approved the Third Party Insurance Bill. The legislation, which is expected to become effective in the near future, “will bind insurance companies to compensate victims of road accidents regardless of their gender,” the state-run news broadcast IRINN was quoted as having stated on March 14. (Sam Wilkin, Iran Insurers to Compensate Women Equally in Road Accidents, REUTERS (Mar. 15, 2016).) A similar provision adopted by Iran’s Parliament in 2008 had been rejected by the Guardian Council. (Id.) According to legislator Rahim Zare, “[o]ur purpose in balancing women’s and men’s compensation was that relatives should not face problems if a woman who is the head of family is killed in an accident.” (Id.)

Third-party vehicle insurance in Iran is governed by the Shari’a law concept of “blood money” (diye), a form of compensation that the victim of an injury, or the victim’s family in the case of death, can claim from the perpetrator. (Id.) The amount of the compensation paid will vary depending on the circumstances and the injuries incurred, but under current law “Muslim women are usually only entitled to half of what a Muslim man would get for the same case.”  (Will Worley, Iran Just Passed an Innocuous Law That’s Actually a Big Step Towards Gender Equality, INDEPENDENT (Mar. 17, 2016 );  see also Law Amending the Law on Compulsory Insurance for Civil Liability of Motor Vehicle Owners Against Third-Parties (1387/04/16, July 6, 2008), Majlis (Iranian Parliament) website (in Persian).)

A blood money punishment may be handed down by a judge in cases of infliction of deliberate harm, such as murder, if the family of the victim agrees to it, e.g., in lieu of the death penalty. (Islamic Penal Code of Iran (July 30, 1991, ratified on Nov. 28, 1991), art. 15, REFWORLD.) The new law will have no impact on the inequality of compensation between men and women in these cases; women will continue to be entitled only to half the compensation that a man would receive. (Wilkin, supra; Islamic Penal Code of Iran, art. 300.)

Currently, the standard sum of blood money to be paid in case of a man’s death, “whether deliberate or accidental,” is 1.5 billion rials (about US$50,000), although “[t]he amount paid for injuries varies according to the severity of the injury.” (Wilkin, supra.) In 1991, the government extended full blood money payments to non-Muslim men who are adherents of recognized religious minorities, but members of religious minorities that are not recognized by the state are not eligible for the payments.  (Id.)

Iranian legal anthropologist Dr. Ziba Mir-Hosseini was quoted as stating that the recent decision might signal the basis for further steps toward gender equality in Iran, because “[o]nce they accept that men and women are equal … in terms of blood money when there is a car accident, that means they have accepted the principle, so that can set a precedent.” (Id.; Worley, supra.)