Women in Iran


One step forward, two steps backwards, the dance of patriarchy continues for millions of Iranian women as they continue to fight for their freedom. Last week, videos and images of women fervently waving the flags of their teams at a league football match in Tehran were appreciated as baby steps toward embracing them as equal to their brethren. Call it the wonders of international pressure or the desperation to dust hands off an extremist reputation, but such is not a sight expected in a country routinely making headlines for treating the freedom of women akin to a national security threat.
That women trying to enter a stadium were greeted with pepper spray earlier this year despite holding tickets to the ongoing match, says a lot about the tenacity of societal pressures. However, the death sentence handed to two Iranian women for defending LGBT rights came as an immediate pause to the joyful hurrah. The ground reality does not seem to have changed even one bit.
From morality paroles to ensure compliance with the dress code to crackdown on mixed gatherings to silencing of protests to shutting doors of employment, neither determination of the Iranian women nor their educational successes have translated into an improvement in their lives. However, much more than the underlying prejudices, these darker times have become pronounced due to biases in the law. Limitations of a female’s ability to conduct her life as per her wishes (without the rubber stamp from her husband) have drawn quite a few eyebrows over the years.
The situation is just as dire in neighbouring Afghanistan, where the ruling Taliban have practically unleashed a war upon women’s rights. Girls forced out of schools and women ordered to remain cooped up indoors at all times; Kabul is putting extra effort to roll out as many gender-restrictive policies as possible to turbo-charge this full-throttle assault on its people. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures and Pakistan can become a beacon of hope for women all around.
By investing in the freedoms, lives and well-being of its women, Pakistan can not only ensure an overwhelming majority of its population takes on a greater role, but also inspire other countries to realise the potential of gender equality.