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Iranian women get equal 'blood money'

Female victims were worth half as much as men

Iran has passed a bill which entitles women victims of road accidents to receive the same amount of "blood money" as men, the judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday.

"A bill on obligatory vehicle insurance has been passed to pay equal blood money and compensation to men and women, Muslim or non-Muslim," Alireza Jamshidi told reporters.

Under Islamic law in force in Iran, anybody who kills another person has to pay compensation -- known as blood money or "diyeh" -- to the victim's family.

But so far the blood money paid for a woman has been half that for a man.

Officials said the bill was proposed by the judiciary and then passed by the economic commission of the Iranian parliament, which has the power to pass bills on its own in exceptional cases.

The bill still has to be approved by the Guardian Council, a conservative clerical watchdog which vets all legislation before it can become law.

Jamshidi explained that the new bill "does not contradict the Sharia (Islamic law) because the insurance policy is based on a contract, where men and women pay equal premiums so they have to be compensated the same."

Iran's recognized religious minorities -- Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians -- were awarded equal blood money status in 2003.

Under Iranian law, a woman's inheritance and legal testimony are still worth half a man's. Rights groups have also been advocating equal rights in divorce and child custody.

The blood money rate, which is calculated annually in Iran, has been set at 550 million rials (about 59,000 dollars) for the current year from March 2008.

Convicted murderers can avoid being hanged by paying blood money to the victim's relatives.