Mahnaz Afkhami discusses the history of Family Law and Personal Status Law in Iran in the pre- and post-1979 revolution eras. At the time of the interview in late 2008, a new, regressive Family Protection bill was introduced by the ruling Administration that sparked widespread reaction in Iranian society. The bill upheld highly conservative, traditional patriarchal views regarding men's authority, women's subordination, and the status of women and children as the de facto property of their male relatives. The interview juxtaposes the proposed law with the highly progressive family laws of pre-revolution Iran, particularly the Family Protection Law of 1967 and 1975 that aimed to give greater rights and equality to women in their family roles and was revoked after the 1979 Revolution. As secretary general of the Women's Organization of Iran (WOI) until 1979, Afkhami had been actively involved in shaping the reforms in favor of the rights of women. In the interview, Afkhami notes that if the Iranian government had be able to maintain its trajectory, Iran would likely have become a model of progressive gender legislation and social norms.
In the 1970s and more recently, there is a growing societal consciousness across the MENA region that women are integral to development and must have equal participation in the decisions that shape societies, from the family to the government. This awareness and mobilization, however, also provokes a growing backlash of conservative and fundamentalist groups who advocate for strict implementation of Sharia law in the family.
Afkhami is interviewed by Voice of America's Ahmadreza Baharloo.