As #MeToo reaches Iran, legal system remains major obstacle to justice

Al-Monitor | Leila Alikarami: Just a few years after the West was consumed with the #MeToo movement, a similar movement has finally emerged among Iranians, sending shockwaves across Persian language social media. Over the past week, many women and men have come forward to talk about their experiences of rape and sexual assault by dozens of high-profile figures in the country. Despite the fact the official media inside Iran remains indifferent to the story, this MeToo wave has stirred public uproar to the point that the police in Tehran arrested a well-known bookshop owner who was accused of rape by several women.

Within any social context, talking about these experiences is not easy. So no one can doubt the bravery and courage of those individuals who break the taboos and talk about their personal experiences of sexual harassment in a country where patriarchal values are reproduced and reinforced by the state.

Although breaking the silence is the first step to address the problem, Iran does not have the right legal infrastructure to deal with this multifaceted challenge constructively. Without clear legal definitions for rape and sexual assault in Iran’s criminal laws, victims who come forward actually put themselves at risk of being accused of criminal conduct.

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