TEHRAN — How much is a life worth in Iran? In what may be a small but significant sign of progress, senior Iranian clerics have ruled that relatives of fatal car crash victims should receive the same amount of insurance compensation regardless of whether the deceased was a man or woman. The same new parity will also be applied in cases of Muslim and non-Muslim victims.
Prior to the new resolution, the family of a Muslim man killed in an accident invariably entitled his relatives to greater compensation. But now, according to a report in the reformist daily Shargh, after four months of deliberation, the country's Guardian Council, a body of senior clerics that verifies the legitimacy of laws, ruled this week in favor of a parliamentary bill to level the amounts insurance firms must pay in car crashes.
The assumption that it is men who work and provide for families' material needs lay behind the higher sums previously meted out to the relatives of male victims, and the law favored Muslim men over minorities including Armenians and Jews. The most striking aspect of the new amendment is the recognition by legislators and clerics that women are now often at the head of Iranian families, and therefore play the role of providers the same way men do.
Shargh cited a spokesman for Iran's parliamentary economic affairs committee, who said that "some ladies run families and when they disappear, the survivors face difficulties."
In the case of minorities like Iran's Armenians and Jews, the longstanding differences in compensation had presumably been part of the traditional "package" of living in an Islamic state, which gives you an inferior though "protected" status.
A Tehran lawyer, Ne'mat Ahmadi, noted that compensation to relatives of car crash victims differed from the blood money paid in murder cases, because the former was "contractual, and connected with insurance policies," while the latter directly reflected Islamic law. As such, it is unlikely the Iranian parliament will move to equalize blood money payments for male and female victims anytime soon.