Iran's female legislators are demanding an end to death by stoning as a punishment for adultery, saying it has harmed the country's image. The women do not disagree with adultery being considered a crime but say the punishment should be milder.

All 11 women in the 290-seat parliament are behind the push to get the law changed, one of the lawmakers said Friday. Elaheh Koulaee said they recently met with senior clerics, who would have to support any such change. "The senior clerics we met earlier this month said they would study our demand to abolish stoning and replace it with other sorts of punishments such as jail," Koulaee told The Associated Press.

International human rights groups have condemned stoning in Iran as a "cruel and barbaric" punishment.

Although it was widely imposed in the early years after the 1979 Islamic revolution, it is now rarely applied. No official figures are available, but based on newspaper reports, there were at least two cases in 2001 and several others in 2002.

Even if the bill is endorsed by the legislature, which is dominated by lawmakers in favor of reform, it has to be approved by the conservative Guardian Council, a legislative oversight body controlled by hard-liners.

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