Women's Rights on The Altar of a Strategic Stake: The New Population Policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran

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Professor Marie Ladier-Fouladi (CNRS)/ CETOBaC) gives a talk for the MEC Women's Rights Research Seminars. Chaired by Soraya Tremayne (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology). Marie Ladier-Fouladi is a senior Researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)/ CETOBaC (Centre d’Études Turques, Ottomanes, Balkaniques et Centrasiatiques) and professor of Political Sociology and Population Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. Marie Ladier-Fouladi earned her Ph.D. in Demography and Social Sciences from the EHESS (École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales - Paris) in 1999 and entered CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) in 2000. In 2012, she earned her full Professorship (Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches -HDR) in Demography and Social Sciences. The title of her HDR’s dissertation was: “Understanding the Socio-Political Change Through the Prism of Demography”. In October 2019, she joined the Centre for Turkish, Ottoman, Balkan and Central Asian Studies (CETOBaC). Her research investigates the relationship between demographic changes and socio-political transformations, especially relying on the case of Iran. This approach consists in analyzing demographic phenomena by putting them in relation to their context, in the historical, social, economic, and political perspective. It is from this reflection on the relationship between demography and politics, and the perspectives they open up to understand social behaviors that she has defined her methodological approach. She has conducted several research projects on women and youth as new protagonists of political change in Iran, family and solidarity networks, social policy, immigration policy, political elections and population’s political horizon in Iran. She recently started working on a new research program entitled: From Global to Local: The Disturbing Future of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In 2010, the Iranian government reversed the neo-Malthusian policy it had introduced in December 1989, and opted for a new population policy that I will define as populationist. It consisted in deploying all possible means to reach a target population of 150 million, within an unspecified timeframe though. The supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, fully endorsed this policy, and in May 2014, for the sake of speeding up the process, he drew up a strategic program in a 14-article decree, called “Population General Policies”, which sanctioned the state’s new population policy, and instructed the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary powers to implement it. Grounded in the alleged threat of population aging due to birth control and declining fertility, the new population policy aims to accelerate population growth by reversing the downward trend in fertility. There is no doubt that the process of population aging has started in Iran, but not to the extent that this demographic evolution may justify the implementation of incentive, coercive and particularly aggressive measures in order to entice Iranian people into having more children. While, by reappropriating their fertility, Iranian women succeeded in coming out of “the male sphere of domination” and thus reaching dignity and equality, they again find themselves subject to injunctions that violate their reproductive health rights and thereby their human rights. I first shed light on the actual yet concealed objective of the new population policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The examination of coercive as well as incentives measures shall then evidence the detrimental effect of this new policy on Iranian women's rights.

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