Friday, September 24, 2004

Women's Rights in Iran

The are not faring well, of course:

Iran's new parliament, elected last February, is working to place more restrictions on women rather than expand reforms carried out under President Mohammad Khatami. According to the New York Times, the 290-member Parliament, that includes only twelve women, rejected calls made by previous reformers in the Parliament to expand inheritance rights for women and for Iran to adopt the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). In addition, the Parliament rejected earlier efforts to include gender equality as goal for the next four years, reports the New York Times.

The new parliament is instead imposing more restrictions on women including segregating men and women at universities. However, a leading political scientist in Iran asserted that "the general trend in this country is moving towards reforms. These restrictions are like putting a little stone in front of a huge storm that is going for reform."

Not unexpected. I find the concept of sex-segregation fascinating. So many conservative ideologies push it, and the usual argument the conservatives make for it is to guarantee the absence of sexual mayhem in the society. Given that integrated societies can function fairly well without any such evident mayhem, something else is also hiding in the subconscious layer of the minds of segregation supporters. Divide et impera, perhaps? Guarantee that men and women don't learn to know each other as human beings? Make it easier to control women in an isolated group?

Who knows. But considering the fact that none of the pro-segregationists actually want real segregation, i.e., economies where women have their own institutions and power over them, I suspect that the control of women as an isolated group is an important basic reason for the yearnings towards a society where women are invisible in public.