Married women in Iran always need their husband's permission to be able to hold a passport both under the current legislation that dates back to the pre-1979 Islamic revolution and under the proposed bill.
Husbands can ban their wives from leaving the country at any time. Divorced women, however, are currently free to hold a passport and leave the country without permission.
"Anyone above the age of 18 can apply for a passport," Hossein Naghavi-Hosseini, the speaker of the parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy told the semi-official Isna news agency. "According to this bill … married women of any age need the written consent of their husband to be able to have a passport and single women above the age of 18 will need the permission of their guardian." Single women whose guardian denies them permission could dispute the decision in a court.
Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, women's rights campaigners have struggled to abolish the need for the husband's consent but the new bill, if passed, would be a major setback.
Shadi Sadr, a prominent women's rights activist and human rights lawyer, told the Guardian: "The mentality behind these controversial laws is that women should have owners, to give power to men to have control over women." The majority of people inside Iran who were barred from leaving the country were either women who did not have the permission of their husbands or tax evaders, she added.
Mohammad Mostafaei, a well-known Iranian lawyer currently living in exile in the Netherlands, called the need for permission "the modern slavery". In an article published on the opposition website Rahesabz he writes: "Only slaves at the time of slavery needed permission to go here or there."
Barring citizens from leaving the country is one of the ways the Islamic republic has punished many of its critics in recent years. In a recent example, the family members of the jailed award-winning lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, including her 12-year-old daughter, were subjected to a travel ban.