The highly visible presence and leadership of women during and in the protests following the June 2009 election has been widely reported in the media, newspapers, and blog sites. It is worth noting that women were also present in massive numbers during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. There are, however, distinct differences between the reasons for participation in social protest, as well as the types of demands that the participants have been articulating during the recent social protests versus the 1979 Revolution. In 1979, the primary articulated demands of female participants were largely similar to those of men. In 2009, however, women have been highly conscious of gender-based social and legal inequalities. Thus, equality of rights has been a primary objective for female participants. Indeed, many observers have noted the growing development of a strong feminist movement during the post-revolutionary period. This movement has been unparalleled anywhere else in the Middle East.1 Many studies have pointed at two distinct trends in the legal rights, public presence, education, and labor force participation of women during the post-revolutionary period. In continuity with trends that began during the earlier part of the twentieth century, women’s education, presence in public space, and participation in white-collar jobs have increased. In comparison to the pre-revolutionary period, however, discriminatory aspects of women’s legal rights, in particular those pertaining to marriage, have been strengthened.2 In this chapter I argue that the changes in the status and emancipation of women have been dichotomous and contradictory since the 1979 Revolution. Women have achieved greater autonomy, public presence, education, and economic power. At the same time, they are subject to increased legal subordination in marriage. I argue that the root of this legal subordination may be found in the strengthening of the medieval interpretation of legal commoditization of female sexuality in marriage. In this chapter I will focus on the legal interpretations regarding the treatment of female sexuality in marriage and its implication for freedom of labor and autonomy of women. I will argue that a Muslim marriage is in essence a legal sale of female sexuality and reproductive labor. As such, it treats female sexuality as a commodity that is sold under regulated and specified conditions. This commoditizing aspect, however, is limited only to sexuality. The woman is not sold in marriage. This commoditizing aspect, however, opens up the possibility

of interpretations ranging from near-complete legal ownership and control by the husband versus modifications and reduction to a symbolic aspect. I will argue that under the monarchy, the medieval legal interpretation of commoditization of female sexuality was treated as negotiable and modifiable. By contrast, the Islamic Republic has treated it as non-negotiable and has reinforced it through enhancement of women’s entitlements in marriage. This reinforcement combined with a growing emancipation in economic, political, and social aspects has thus given rise to contradictions and female activism. Thus, women participate in social protests as agents aware of their own unequal rights who are aiming to eliminate gender-based legal discriminations.