Reformists propose equal inheritance rights for women

A bill granting women equal inheritance rights to men has been approved by Iran's reformist parliament. In an unexpected move welcomed by human rights groups, the toughest challenge the reformists now face is getting the bill past the Guardian Council, a deeply conservative vetting body made up of 12 clerics and Islamic jurists. In the past the body has thrown out bills promoting equal rights.

Under current law, a woman is entitled to only half her husband's estate in the absence of other heirs - the state takes the other half. But when an heirless wife dies, her widower is entitled to the entire estate.

If the couple has children, the wife receives one eighth of the husband's estate, whereas the widowed husband with children receives a quarter.

Under the proposed law, women will be able to claim the entire estate. "We think this is really great. This is the best step the reformists have taken for women's rights," Azam Azimi, a spokesperson for the Women's Solidarity Association of Iran, told IRIN on Monday.

"This is also good because it has brought this issue into the public arena - women who didn't know about it before know about it now," she added.

But analysts say the reformists have little chance of passing the bill. The current parliament's term runs out on 27 May, when the conservatives will move in. "Reformists are weak and the newly resurgent conservatives want to demonstrate their new-found strength - rejecting this bill is a perfect way of doing this," a Tehran-based analyst told IRIN.