chapter
Introduction
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This book is concerned with investigating the local con ditions and factors leading to viol ence against women in Iranian soci ety, with Islam (in its Shia version) as its official religion. My as sump tion here was that, although viol ence against women is a global phenomenon, it manifests itself in local forms and is rooted in a local interplay of factors. My inter est was to study the effects of these factors on do mestic viol ence against women in Iran. This was done theor et ically (by introducing epistemological, ontological and methodo logical discourses) and prac tically (by conducting an empirical investigation). According to many criminologists, do mestic viol ence against women is the most under-reported crime worldwide. However, data presented to the United Nations has revealed that viol ence against women, or gender-based viol ence, is a widespread phenomenon that happens across the world, re gard less of class, nationality, race, religion and socio-economic de velopment (World Health Organisation, 2005a; United Nations Report, 1991).1 It can be argued that viol ence against women is not the result of unaccount able or pathological beha vi our, but of a learned, conscious and calculated beha vi our originating from a social sys tem of deep-rooted in equal ity and pat ri archy. Unequal power relationships affect some indi viduals in such a way that they are encouraged to exercise their power over others and to intimidate or control them. Unequal relationships within the family on the basis of gender and age have been identified as the main factors generating viol ence, which is not related to specific social class or educational, ethnic or age groups (Shipway, 2004). These arguments will be discussed extensively in Chapter 1 of this book. The main focus of Chapter 1 is to investigate the roots and causes of viol ence as a uni ver sal phenomenon. The aim is to provide an overview of the existing liter at ure in relation to the set of factors involved in producing, perpetuating and limiting viol ence. There will be an attempt to apply an interdisciplinary approach in reviewing viol ence against women, in terms of the interplay of a complex configuration of factors. A brief outline of the definition and terminology of do mestic viol ence is given. I will further present the results of a number of studies conducted in relation to do mestic viol ence against women in Iran. Finally, a summary of the chapter will be given. The aim of Chapter 2 is to ex plore the issues sur round ing do mestic viol ence against women and to address the im port ant questions, more par ticu larly in the

Islamic con text, by investigating the religious sources of the laws of the land, such as the Qur’an and the or tho dox jurisprudence, to reflect on cultural beliefs and practices re gard ing the prevalence of viol ence against women in Iran. It is known that one of the most signi fic ant social-cognitive pro cesses that con trib ute to levels of in equal ity is a shared belief in discourses that legitimise in equal ity, ex ploita tion and viol ence. The or tho dox jurisprudence (the study of Islamic religious law) in Muslim soci eties acts as an ideo logy and a collection of legal codes which shape the lives of ordinary Muslims. During recent years, Islam has played an institutional role in governing men’s treatment of women, par ticu larly in determining the legitimacy of some or tho dox rules re gard ing women’s rights and obli ga tions. It is abso lutely vital to investigate the effects of these discourses on viol ence against women in Iranian soci ety, and it is use ful to understand how Iranian women are being treated under the or tho dox jurisprudence. Therefore, there will be an attempt to pose and reflect upon a number of questions sur rounding the issue of do mestic viol ence under these rules and regulations: What is the or tho dox jurisprudence? How does it shape the people’s lives? Does it in any way legitimise the use of co er cive meas ures against women? What is the place of women in the ideal order envisaged by the or tho dox jurisprudence, and how does it affect the issue of viol ence against women? How is viol ence against women, in practice, affected by the or tho dox jurisprudence? The role of foqaha (religious jurists, who are mainly male, reflecting the male-dominated nature of or tho doxy) will be addressed at the beginning of Chapter 2 (in the first section), and the discussion will pro gress to introduce the or tho dox jurisprudence’s understanding of marriage and marital relationships and viol ence against women (in the second section). Consequently, on the basis of the know ledge accu mu lated in the previous sections, the last part will attempt to paint a more complete pic ture of the place of women in the traditional jurisprudence by probing the rules and regulations pertaining to the issues of in equal ity/equality and dif fer ence/sameness between the sexes in theories addressing gender dif fer ences and gender equality in con tempor ary Iran. The study will endeavour to clarify how or tho dox discourses perceive femininity/masculinity, and how these beliefs manifest themselves in shaping and regulating the use of viol ence against women, by investigating Qur’anic verses and sayings (ahadith) about women’s and men’s sexuality. As fem in ism pays immense attention to the control of female sexuality as the root cause of pat ri archy, this ana lysis will have further significance. Chapter 3 will address issues sur round ing fem in ist methodology, epi stemology and ontology; the main focus of this chapter is to present reflexive methodology (at both theor et ical and prac tical levels) as the most appropriate means of producing data in relation to this par ticu lar research. The empirical data is presented in Chapters 4, 5 and 6 of this book, which will be mainly concerned with ana lysis of the data produced in the field study with the three groups (women, men and the judicial officials). I report and reflect on the parti cip ants’ ex peri ences, their nar rat ives, and their explanations of the reasons behind do mestic viol ence. The accounts of the parti cip ants were thematised to find the answers to the fol low ing questions: What constitutes do mestic

viol ence against women? What set of discourses and nar rat ives are deployed to jus tify or condemn it? What are perceived to be the root causes of do mestic violence? And what rem ed ies were deemed feasible and why? The ana lysis of the accounts of the judicial officials is presented in Chapter 4, where I discuss the major themes touched upon by the eight parti cip ants (two female and six male). In Chapter 5, I examine different themes drawn from the accounts of forty women whose nar rat ives I present and ana lyse. I discuss women’s ex peri ences and understanding of do mestic viol ence, and what they regard as the reasons behind their partners’ abusive behaviour. Chapter 6 is based on the accounts of four teen male parti cip ants, their perceptions of gender relations and their reasons for using viol ence against their wives. The conclusion to the book may be found in Chapter 7, where the repeated themes and empirical findings are summar ised, and where a number of suggestions are put forward with regard to the feasible rem ed ies avail able to Iranian soci ety. In this chapter I will discuss what is accounted for as viol ence, based on the parti cip ants’ points of view. Moreover, I will discuss the causes of viol ence by crit ically analysing the accounts of all the parti cip ants. I close this chapter by presenting short-term and long-term strat egies avail able in dealing with do mestic viol ence against women.