This article explores the gender implications of retributive punishment in Iran's criminal justice system with specific attention to the Islamic mandate of forgiveness. Iranian penal codes allow victims’ families to forgive an offender through forbearance of their right of retribution. To mitigate or even cancel the retributive component of punishment in numerous crimes, including murder, defendants usually offer compensation. Through a study of the gendered logics of criminal sanctioning, forbearance, and compensation, this article brings to light some of the issues victims’ families and defendants face. In doing so, this article explores the debates around one of the formal gender gaps in Iranian laws, unequal compensation in sanctioning, where the amount of reparation for the loss a woman's life is legally half that of a man's. Because of this, some accounts of Islamic criminal processes suggest that female family members are helpless victims or nonactors in legal negotiations. By studying how gendered social relations operate in Iran's criminal legal process, this article finds women playing key roles in family decisions to forgive or not. The examination of judicial processes, moreover, reveals some of the complexity of gender relations, which are not fixed, as static legal texts might suggest.
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