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Segregating The Sexes In Tehran

Tehran's city government is trying to separate male and female employees within its offices, a move parallel with moral norms favored by Iran's Islamic government but likely to irk less conservatie segments of the population.

This would not be the first such move in Iran since the 1979 revolution. There have been previous attempts to separate the sexes at universities, and buses already have distinct sections for men and women — which is also the case in some other countries, including Mexico.

It is unclear when the change might happen, but conservative politicians are praising Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the conservative daily Jomhuri-e Eslami reports.

Tehran MP Ali Motahari wrote in a public letter to the mayor that this separation of the sexes within city offices should have happened years ago and there was "consensus" about segregation at work. "This is in contrast with the Western world, which wants to belittle chastity, and we see all the problems they face, with precarious families ... homosexuality and the degradation of women," Motahari wrote.

Previous governments evaded the issue, he wrote, apparently fearing electoral consequences. "It is not clear what the opponents of this initiative are upset about," he wrote.

Deputy judiciary head Ebrahim Raisi has separately said that women support the change, because "most women need an entirely suitable and calm environment so they can work better."

Tehran's Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Kazemini said that "our sisters and brothers" shouldn't sit beside each other at work and "pull away the curtain of decency." He told a conference on women and religion Wednesday that "divorce figures between working people are not small, and this is of concern."

Iranian authorities aren't ignorant of modern lifestyles, but they want to limit situations that could lead to sex outside of marriage.

These comments about segregating the sexes came amid a more disturbing report about a Tehran school principal accused of abusing girls between the ages of 8 and 11. Judiciary official Mozaffar Alvandi recently said that it was unclear whether the abuse was "imposed" or whether the incidents between the girls and the teacher were "consenting."

After his outrageous comments, Alvandi declined requests from the BBC to elaborate. He told Iran's ILNA news agency that child abuse is a problem everywhere, not just in Iran, and that "mutual attraction exists at certain age groups," and that children today are not as innocent as they were in the past. He supports "certain types of education for certain age groups" — or some form of sex education — if only to counter the influence of the "Internet and satellite dishes."

— Ahmad Shayegan

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