Gender apartheid roundtable

On Wednesday 23 August, the Iranian Solidarity Group Aotearoa New Zealand held a policy roundtable discussion at Parliament and online, on the topic of the living conditions of Iranian and Afghan women and the use of the term ‘gender apartheid’. NCWNZ President Suzanne Manning was an invited speaker, and she attended in person along with Rayane Al Faraj, Board administrator intern. Carol Beaumont, Board member, and Julie Thomas, Parliamentary Watch Committee member, attended online.

Gender Apartheid roundtable August 2023 flyer

Forough Amin, from the Iranian Solidarity Group NZ and founder of Iranian Women NZ Charitable Trust, started the discussion by stating that gender oppression exists all around the world because of the patriarchal system. However, the situation in Iran and Afghanistan is different: in these countries, the oppression women face is systematically enforced by the State and the law, which makes it extremely violent and difficult to combat. Hence, the Iranian Solidarity Group NZ seek to have the international community name the gender oppression in Iran and Afghanistan as ‘gender apartheid’ and to encourage collective action against it.

The second speaker, Gregory Fortuin, former Race Relations Commissioner, spoke of his experience in South Africa during racial apartheid. He explained how the term ‘apartheid’ has a strong and violent meaning, because of the history behind it. Drawing similarities between the situation of women in Iran and Afghanistan with that of black and coloured people in South Africa from 1948-1991, he argued that the term gender apartheid is appropriate to describe what women are facing and should be used to highlight the violence of the situation.

This point was enforced by Gissou Nia, human rights lawyer from the US, speaking of the importance of the international community recognizing gender apartheid. This is a goal of the organisation End Gender Apartheid, who want gender apartheid to be made a crime against humanity in international law. Some progress has been made, especially since the death of Mahsa Jina Amini, an Iranian woman killed by the morality police, which put a global spotlight on the country’s discriminatory framework. There is still a long way to go.

Margaret Wilson, Professor of law and public policy and former Speaker of Parliament, explained that the idea behind the codification of gender apartheid is to criminalise any control and domination of women. The main issue in New Zealand is to get the Parliament’s support in both its foreign and domestic policy. While obtaining domestic support involves providing education about gender apartheid, a foreign policy would involve seeking an international convention or law that would recognize the criminalisation of gender apartheid.

Suzanne Manning outlined the history of women gaining the vote, a global project led during the late 1800s, with different countries using different tactics. The goal of suffrage for women was achieved through collective action and gaining allies in positions of power. New Zealand has a special reputation internationally as the first country to grant women the right to vote at the national level and is seen as a leader in gender equality. We need to use this reputation to speak out against gender apartheid. Governments and NGOs have different but complementary roles in this task and should collaborate to provide strong support for women’s resistance in the face of oppression in their own countries.

Finally, during a Q&A session, attendees heard an inspiring first-hand account of the ongoing resistance of women and minority groups in the face of oppression in Iran and Afghanistan.


To read more articles from The Circular (July-August 2023) issue 642, click on the tag below.
Tags for Issue 642


Get involved locally - connect Be generous - donate Keep up to date - news