People in the West often have a very stereotypical view of women’s rights in Iran, and other countries in the Middle East. However, the reality is far more complex than that. Women’s issues are becoming a strong force in Iranian politics. Although the constitutions of Iran in 1906 and 1979 denied women’s rights, female activists in this country have advanced women’s rights considerably in the subsequent generation.
One common misperception is that Islam is static. It is not, at least in the political sense; like the Constitutions of the United States and other countries, changes do occur. Women demonstrated in large numbers as a result of the revolution in 1979. They did not focus on women’s rights specifically, but even their mere presence symbolized changing mores. Ayatollah Khomeini stated publicly that Islam was a friend to women’s rights. However, after his ascension to power, he reversed this, and began denying women certain rights, such as the freedom for them to decide if they wanted to wear a hijab to work or not. He lowered the age that girls were allowed to marry, they were barred from becoming judges, etc. Demonstrations again ensued, but the government stepped in and said that the Ayatollah’s words had been misinterpreted.
Certain measures had been taken to help women stay at home and not have to leave the home to go to outside work. They were encouraged to retire after 15 years, daycare centre facilities on the workplace were shut down, etc. Some people would say this is anti-women’s rights, but I have a different opinion. Encouraging women to stay at home is not an infringement of women’s rights, but a celebration instead of women’s natural, biological role, designed by God. A woman’s primary responsibility is to stay home and take care of the children that she has helped bring in to the world. Some women would say this is sexist, but they are fools. A woman can exercise any talents she exhibits in the public workplace, at home. If she is talented with music, she can teach piano lessons from home and make money that way if she needs to. If she is adept with numbers, she can handle the family’s finances because of her aptitude with accounting. The man’s responsibility is to earn the bread; the woman’s responsibility is to cook it. It might be 2013, but God’s plans for each of the genders, I don’t think has ever changed. Although there are individual exceptions, for the most part, women and men are different, and therefore we have different roles. So an extreme feminist might say that a woman’s place is in the workplace, whereas a moderate feminist might say that she has a choice whether to be home or in the workplace. I can understand the moderate viewpoint, but I think that if too many women make the choice to sacrifice home life for the working life, too many children are going to suffer.