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Iran: New Women’s Inheritance Law Is Enforced

(May 15, 2009) The Iranian government has begun implementing controversial legislation that allows women to inherit all forms of their husband's property.

According to Article 946 of the Civil Code of Iran, which is based on Islamic law, the “[h]usband inherits all the property of the deceased wife, but the wife of a deceased husband inherits only movable property of any kind and buildings and trees. The law provided a restriction on a woman's inheritance of buildings and trees by saying that the woman inherits the value of the buildings and trees, not the actual real estate. However, the law did provide that if the other survivors of the husband refuse to pay the wife the price of the real property, then the wife can acquire the real property itself.

The recent legislation has introduced the following innovations:

· Land has been added to the property a woman may inherit from a deceased husband, something which was banned before ; and

· Limits on the proportion of movable property a woman could inherit have been deleted. (Iran Enforces New Women's Inheritance Law, PRESS TV, May 13, 2009, available at

The new law, according to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, would have to be confirmed by the Guardian Council, which is made up of six religious and six legal experts. The Guardian Council, however, remained silent and refused to express its opinion. The provisions became fully legislated and enforceable in the absence of the Council's affirmation after the President issued a decree and signed the legislation into law. The Guardian Council's decision to remain silent on the issue followed heavy criticism from several top religious figures, who view the legislation as in clear contradiction with Islamic law. (Id.)

Commenting on the criticism, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said that the House passed the law after receiving approval from the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. “The Guardian Council asked the Leader for a Fatwa [religious ruling] on the matter and the House passed the Leader's exact Fatwa,” Larijani explained. (Id.)

In defense of the decision, Iranian journalist and legal expert Majid Dehlavi says the implementation of the new inheritance law is a step in the right direction. “This new law is far more in harmony with the social system governing our relations,” Dehlavi told Press TV. “The previous law was used in the past to safeguard the property of the children after their mothers remarried, but that has nothing to do with the society we live in today,” he added. (Id.)