DUBAI Iran's legal vetting body has approved a bill that will see female victims of road traffic accidents paid the same compensation as men, in a small step toward gender equality in the conservative Islamic country.
The Third Party Insurance Bill, likely to be made law in the coming weeks, will bind insurance companies to compensate victims of road accidents regardless of their gender, state broadcaster IRINN said on Monday.
The bill was approved by the Guardian Council, a 12-member Islamic body responsible for ensuring legislation conforms to Sharia (Islamic) law, which had rejected a similar measure passed by parliament in 2008.
In Iranian law, third party vehicle insurance is governed by the Koranic concept of "blood money" whereby the victim of injury, or their family in the case of death, can claim compensation from the perpetrator.
"Once they accept that men and women are equal... in terms of blood money when there is a car accident, that means they have accepted the principle, so that can set a precedent," said Ziba Mir-Hosseini, a professorial research associate at SOAS, part of the University of London.
"Blood money" settlements can also be used in cases of deliberate harm in Iran if the victim's family agrees, and are frequently applied in lieu of the death penalty for murder. Women will remain unequal in such cases, which are not affected by the new law.
Iranian law states women are entitled to only half the compensation a man would receive. Smaller payments for women are consistent with most schools of Islamic law, though this is not specified in core Islamic texts.
"Our purpose in balancing women's and men's compensation was that relatives should not face problems if a woman who is the head of family is killed in an accident," IRIB quoted lawmaker Rahim Zare as saying.
The standard "blood money" sum for men is fixed at 1.5 billion rials (around $50,000) in case of death, whether deliberate or accidental. The amount paid for injuries varies according to the severity of the injury.
Iran extended full payments to non-Muslim men in 1991, but only those who follow recognized religious minorities. Unrecognized religious minorities, including Bahais and atheists, are not entitled to "blood money" payments at all.
(Reporting by Sam Wilkin; Editing by Hugh Lawson)