New Iran Laws Would Reduce Women To 'Baby-Making Machines,' Amnesty Report Says

LONDON, March 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Iranian women will be reduced to "baby-making machines" by draft legislation intended to boost the country's declining birth rate, rights group Amnesty International said in a report published on Wednesday.

"The proposed laws will entrench discriminatory practices and set the rights of women and girls in Iran back by decades," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director, said in a statement accompanying the report.

One draft law, outlawing voluntary sterilization and restricting access to information about contraception, was passed by parliament in August 2014 and is now being considered by the Guardian Council, which must approve all laws, Amnesty said.

This would result in more unwanted pregnancies, forcing more women to seek illegal and unsafe abortions, Amnesty said.

Until 2012, the Iranian government provided millions of women with access to affordable modern contraception. But since then, the authorities have been trying to arrest the declining birth rate in their country of some 90 million people.

Another draft law forces employers hiring new staff to prioritize, in order, men with children, married men without children, then married women with children. Parliament is due to consider it in April.

It includes "... harmful and discriminatory measures aimed at promoting early marriage, repeated childbearing and lower divorce rates..." Amnesty said.

The bill will "exacerbate discrimination against women seeking employment as it is designed to promote marriage and childbearing at the expense of women's right to equal participation in the economy," it said.

"The Iranian authorities must recognize that introducing such legislation could have devastating consequences for women trapped in abusive relationships," Sahraoui said.

Proclamations by Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, that men and women are treated equally are "far from the truth," Amnesty said.

In Iranian courts, a woman's testimony is worth half of a man's, while rape within marriage and domestic violence are not recognized as criminal offenses, the report said.

(Editing by Tim Pearce)