Iran Bans Women From Going To Male Doctors — Gender Laws, Beyond The Hijab
Recovering from the shock of Iran's 2022 mass protests, the clerical regime has vigorously resumed its campaign to enforce Islamic hijab rules. But it is also pushing for gender segregation in other important ways across society
Updated on Nov. 7, 2023 at 2:35 p.m.
Iran's deputy-chief prosecutor, Ghulam Abbas Turki, has instructed the country's health ministry to prevent male physicians from treating female patients, saying this is a violation of morals and the law.
Turki wrote in a letter published on Sept. 14 that men working in a technical and non-technical capacity in "certain clinics" were creating "problems and difficulties for respectable ladies and their families" and even causing them "emotional and psychological problems."
Article 290 of the country's criminal code is designed to address this, he wrote. A shortage of women's clinics like birthing centers, especially in provincial districts, is forcing women into hospitals with male staff, Turki wrote — therefore, the ministry must reorganize to ensure it had the necessary female staff, from specialists to GPs, technicians, anaesthetists and nurses, across the country.
Gender segregation was on the Islamic Republic's agenda almost as soon as it took power early in 1979, and it has since sought to implement it where it could. Most recently, following mass rioting in 2022 that was in part a revolt against the Iranian regime's forceful moralizing, the state has resumed efforts to enforce its hijab or public modesty and dress norms.
Last month, Armita Geravand, an Iranian teenage girl died after reports that she was accosted by officials on Tehran's Metro while not wearing a headscarf. Geravand's death comes after her being in a coma for weeks in Tehran and after the one-year anniversary of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini which sparked nationwide protests at the time.
Beyond the hijab crackdown, the regime is also now taking a step further with gender segregation.This was evident in a flurry of communiqués and instructions issued in past months to public bodies, including hospitals. More importantly, the parliamentary legal affairs committee has approved a 70-article Hijab and Modesty Bill (Layehe-ye hejab va efaf) the judiciary proposed to parliament in the spring of 2023.
Segregation at school, in sports, on buses
The bill wants health ministry premises, including hospitals, to separate men and women throughout their premises, and the ministry must create "special environments to provide medical services" to women, to be respected bar "in exceptional cases" where a man must attend to a female patient.
It also wants city halls to increase the number of special buses for women and enforce gender segregation on other buses. The transport and city planning ministry will be tasked with creating "the necessary space and infrastructures to build and expand spaces prepared for ladies," and ensuring residential buildings had "open spaces that were not exposed."
The bill wants recruitment procedures to consider job candidates' "active" respect for hijab norms — with discrimination in favor of the zealous — foresees prizes for women in sports "promoting the hijab culture," and seeks women's universities and colleges.
The bill is effectively being implemented in any case, here and there.
In contrast, sporting and media personalities reluctant to promote the Islamic hijab should face penalties including, in grave cases, whipping, a standard practice here since 1979. The bill touches on other issues like who can wash a corpse.
TEHRAN - Iranian President EBRAHIM RAISI (R) and Iranian Minister of Education REZA MORAD SAHRAEI (L) attend the beginning of the new school year ceremony at Shahid Kamandi School
Iranian Presidency / ZUMA
Surveillance and control
Parliament has yet to vote for it, before it is sent for definitive approval or rejection by the Guardian Council, a body of constitutional jurists. Yet the bill is effectively being implemented in any case, here and there. Students from the Ferdowsi University in Mashhad in north-eastern Iran say segregation of boys and girls in classes and labs began there in late August. This was ordered in line with decisions taken in the late 1980s by the Council of the Cultural Revolution, a post-revolutionary body tasked with ending the secular order, among other duties.
The university's head of student affairs also ordered students and staff to stop using foreign messaging services or apps. Yet Abulfazl Ghaffari, the student affairs chief, denied there was any segregation, saying male and female students had merely been told to sit in different rows. "This is nothing new," he said.
Amnesty International condemned the hijab bill months ago as part of the regime's persecution of all the women who have refused since 2022 to don headscarves or strictly abide by the regime's dress codes.
It stated in a report that in the two months to June 14 this year, police had sent about one million phone messages to women, warning they had been caught on camera without their headscarves, even inside their cars. Such women may currently face penalties including fines or being refused public services.
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