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Iran custody bill progresses

TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters) -- Iranian feminists hailed a bill giving divorced mothers the same custody rights over boys as girls.

The bill was passed by the country's reformist-led parliament on Wednesday but now needs to go before the Guardian Council, a conservative body that vets legislation, for approval.

"This is a small step forward in removing existing discriminations against women," Elaheh Kulai, a women deputy, told Reuters after the parliamentary debate that was broadcast live on state radio.

"We have been trying to modify discriminatory laws, using the opinions of the more enlightened Islamic scholars."

If passed, the bill would grant women custody of both boys and girls until they reach seven, when the court would decide on which parent has custody.

Under the present law, based on the Islamic code, divorced women have automatic custody of girls until they are seven, but only keep boys until they are two.

"I hope the Guardian Council will approve this bill as some prominent religious scholars have given it their support," Kulai said.

The council, dominated by orthodox Muslim clerics, has in the past vetoed parliament's more progressive rulings on the grounds they were un-Islamic.

Mina Salehi, a woman lawyer, said Wednesday's ruling was a gain for Iranian women who have long been battling injustice.




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