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10 Emory Int'l L. Rev. 779 (1996)
Human Rights of Women in Iran: The Universalist Approach and the Relativist Response

handle is hein.journals/emint10 and id is 791 raw text is: HUMAN RIGHTS OF WOMEN IN IRAN:
Women in Iran suffer human rights abuses at the hands of
their government every day. While the international community
has attempted to hold Iran accountable under international law,
those attempts have failed.' The Iranian government argues it is
not bound by international law because its culture and religion
permit Iran to treat women according to its own standards. This
Comment proposes a solution that incorporates aspects of both
universalism and relativism to lessen Iran's violations of
women's human rights.2 This solution, the grass roots method,
I A country's obligations under international law can arise from three sources: in-
ternational conventions, international custom, and general principles that the major legal
systems of the world recognize. RESTATEMENT (THIRD) OF FOREIGN RELATIONS § 102
(1987); Statute of the I.C.J., art. 38, reprinted in INTERNATIONAL LAW (Louis Henkin et al.
eds., 3d ed. 1993) 51, 51-52. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), which decides inter-
national disputes once parties have consented to its jurisdiction, also looks to judicial
decisions and teachings as a subsidiary source of international law. Id. at 52. If the par-
ties agree, the ICJ can decide a case according to principles based on equity and con-
science. Id. There are several problems with making international law binding on Iran.
First, of the international treaties to which Iran is a party, Iran has entered reservations
to many human rights provisions. For those treaties, the extent and nature of its obliga-
tions must still be interpreted. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, State Responsibility Under
International Human Rights Law to Change Religious and Customary Laws, in HUMAN
Cook ed., 1994). Second, customary international law is vague and difficult to establish.
Id. Even if customary international law were easily defined, it would be difficult to identi-
fy any principle prohibiting all forms of gender discrimination. Id. Third, the principles of
law and equity are based on universalist principles. After establishing that Iran violated
international human rights law, the international community must then enforce Iran's
conformity with international law. An-Na'im, supra at 170. However, the problem of
enforcement has not been resolved by the international community, in large part because
states are reluctant to submit to individual complaints. Louis Henkin, International Law:
Politics, Values, and Functions, in INTERNATIONAL LAW, supra at 640. The international
community has dealt with the enforcement problem in a couple of ways. First, the United
Nations created the ICJ. Second, each treaty provides for its own enforcement mecha-
nism, and such enforcement mechanisms include the ICJ and committees. For example,
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights established a committee to ad-
dress disputes. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, art.
41, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, GA. Res. 2200, U.N. GAOR, 21st Sess., Supp. No. 16 at 57, U.N.
Doc. A/6316 (1967) [hereinafter ICCPRI.
' Because many laws and practices in Iran subordinate women to men, applying

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