Thursday, August 23, 2012

Keeping Out Those Uppity Women

Iran's regime has always justifiably compared its human rights record to that of the Taliban and Saudi Arabia, and in fact given the extension of education and infrastructure development to areas underserved by the Pahlavi monarchy, could make some claim to have actually empowered women in an everyday sense even while implementing legal restrictions.  New higher education restrictions, however, take it in the wrong direction:
"Why are 36 Iranian universities now barring women from 77 academic fields, including engineering, accounting, education, counseling, and chemistry?
"In recent years, women have been winning more places in universities in competitive, nation-wide exams. These new measures seem intended to redress the balance in men’s favor. So far, no university has adopted a policy of single sex faculty, such as men restricted to teaching male students and women restricted to teaching only female students—although that reversal seems more possible now too. In the early years of the revolution, the regime toyed with the idea of segregating university classes and barred women from some fields of study, including agriculture and veterinary sciences. But segregation proved impractical and was never implemented, and women gradually gained access to all disciplines.
"Iran is now reverting to the failed policies of the past. The decision by Qom University, located in a shrine city and the center of religious learning in Iran, not to allow women to study economics, commerce or industrial engineering may not be surprising. But Tehran University’s decision was unexpected. It is Iran’s oldest institution of higher education. It pioneered coeducation when it opened in 1936. Tehran University is now accepting only male students in a number of engineering fields and also in mining, forestry and even mathematics...
"It reflects a fear of educated and powerful women who are aware of their rights
and frustrated about discrimination. Educated women also challenge the culture of men breadwinners and heads of family. The Ahmadinejad government seems to think it can discourage women from pursuing higher education if universities introduce a quota system in favor of men, segregate classes and bar women from many fields of study."

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