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Sex-segregation in Iran has a long and complex history.

Reza Shah Era

Reza Shah was against sex-segregation and he ordered Tehran University to enroll its first woman in 1936.[1][2] Reza Shah forcibly unveiled women and promoted their education in the model of Turkey's Ataturk.

After the Islamic Revolution

When Ruhollah Khomeini called for women to attend public demonstration and ignore the night curfew, millions of women who would otherwise not have dreamt of leaving their homes without their husbands' and fathers' permission or presence, took to the streets. Khomeini's call to rise up against the Shah took away any doubt in the minds of many devoted Muslim women about the propriety of taking to the streets during the day or at night.After the Islamic revolution, however, Khomeini publicly announced his disapproval of mixing between the sexes.[3]

Khomeini favored single-sex schools in his speech at the anniversary of the birth of Fatimah bint Muhammad, saying:

As the religious leaders have influence and power in this country, they will not permit girls to study in the same school with boys. They will not permit women to teach at boys' schools. They will not permit men to teach at girls' schools. They will not allow corruption in this country.[4]

Sex segregation of public places such as beaches, swimming pools, schools, libraries, cafes, restaurants, hairdressers or sport halls was ordered and legally introduced. According to the law, there should be separate sections for the sexes at political meetings, conferences, weddings and funerals, and even men and women should form different queues.

In all public places such as cinemas,theaters and restaurants there is a section "specifically for families" (makhsous-e-khanevaade) which is separated from the section "specifically for single males") (makhsous-e-mardaan-e-mojarrad).[5]

Dress Code

File:Women in shiraz 2.jpg

Women wearing chador in Shiraz Bazar

After the revolution, Parliament made it compulsory for all women to observe the veil and for the first time rules prescribing the Hijab as proper attire for women were written into the law.

According to the law, women’s clothing should meet the following conditions:

  • Women must cover their entire body except their faces and hands (from wrist to the base of the fingers).
  • Women who choose not to wear chador, must wear a long overcoat called manteau. Manteau should be thick enough to conceal what is underneath, and should be loose fitting.
  • Women should not wear bright colored clothes or clothes that are adorned so that they may attract men's attention[6]. Although in recent years many women wear more colorful dresses in public and this seems to be tolerated by the moral police.

Correspondingly, bad hijabi (improper veiling”) was considered a cultural crime. Bad hijabi is defined by the law as: “uncovered head, showing make-up, uncovered arms and legs, thin and see-through clothes, tight clothes such as trousers without an overall over them, clothes bearing foreign words, signs or pictures, nail varnish, brightly colored clothing and improper modes of body movement or talking”..[6] The punishment of bad hijabi was 74 lashes in the 1983 Penal Law. In 1996, the Penal Law was reformed and the punishment of bad hijabi was reduced to prison (from ten days to four months) and/or a fine (from 50,000 to 500000 Rials) [7]

What follows is an excerpt from Ayatollah Khamenei's speech regarding bad-hijabi:

More than Iran's enemies need artillery, guns and so forth, they need to spread their anti-culture that leads to moral corruption. Instead of bombs, they now send miniskirts and short manteaus. If they arouse sexual desires in any given country, if they spread unrestrained mixing of men and women, and if they lead youth to behavior to which they are naturally inclined by instincts, there will no longer be any need for artillery and guns against that nation.[8]

Iranian women are not required to wear chadors. Some do so, as wearing it is a claim to respectability and Islamic piety. However, women may also fulfill the government requirements for modest dress by wearing a combination of a headscarf and manteau.

Men are also concerned with veiling. Like women, men are not allowed to exhibit their legs or upper torso. Although wearing ties or bow-ties is not prohibited, since they are considered signs of western influence, they are not acceptable as an official norm. Wearing earrings is prohibited for men.


Buses are divided into two parts. Men should get on and off through the front door while the back section and back doors are for women. Although the bus services in Iran are sex-segregated, women should remain fully covered while in bus. In other cities such as in Mashhad, males and females were prevented from traveling on the same bus. Traditionally it is not acceptable in Iran for a man to sit or stand beside a non-mahram woman in public places. It is not forbidden for women in Iran to drive cars like in Saudi Arabia, but riding bicycles and motorbikes remains illegal. It is also forbidden for women to be alone in a car with a non-mahram man. .[9]

See also


  1. [1], Nikki R. Keddie, Social Research via, Summer 2000; accessed September 21, 2008.
  2. A Brief History of Women's Movements in Iran 1850-2000, Massoume Price, The Iranian, March 7, 2000; accessed September 21, 2008.
  3. Revolution, Islamization, and Women’s Employment in Iran, by Roksana Bahramitash
  4. Imam Khomeini, "Speech number sixteen". Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, World Service. October 26, 1964. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
  5. Reza Afshari, Cultural Relatvisim pg. 244
  6. 6.0 6.1 Wright, The Last Great Revolution (2000), p.136.
  7. Crackdown in Iran over dress codes, 27 April 2007
  8. Imam Khamenei, "Iranian Leader Khamenei: Iran's Enemies Want to Destroy it with Miniskirts". MEMRI. January 6, 2005.
  9. Sadighi Fard, Javanan e Iran (2001), p.114.


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