Change in Attitudes Beliefs and Practices Regarding Gender

The last few decades have seen drastic changes in gender in Iran, as previous sections have indicated. Mohammad

Reza Shah Pahlavi wanted to educate women and bring them into the public sphere as a significant symbol of Iranian modernization and westernization. His father even outlawed women's veils and scarfs for a time, forcing most women to stay at home rather than expose themselves. Until the Iranian Revolution of February 11, 1979, Iranian women, especially of the middle and upper classes, were gaining literacy, education, and jobs in the modern public sector, and even traveling abroad for education. Many women, especially in middle- and upper-class urban areas, wore chic Western fashions rather than veils or even scarves. Courtship, marriage, nuclear family organization, level of control of parents, status and power of women, gender and family laws, and women's public roles were all being transformed. Then, with the formation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, conservative clerics attempted to reverse the changes in gender and sexuality, reestablishing sex segregation, females' family roles, and male control over females, sexuality, family, and public space. Females caught wearing lipstick or nail polish or showing a strand of hair or glimpse of skin under their veils or rupushes (raincoatlike covering) faced imprisonment and harassment. Family laws did away with the rights women had gained during the Shah's regime. The legal age of marriage for females went down from 16 to 9 again. Recently, more females have been attaining an education, and the majority of university students are now female (Afkhami & Friedl, 1994). Women have found many ways of resisting the new stricter restrictions and to press for changes beneficial to women. With increased access to literacy and Islamic scholarship, some women are questioning male misogynist interpretations of Islamic sources. The legal age of marriage for females has risen to 15, and men are now supposed to pay a mehr adjusted for inflation when divorcing a wife.

Women and sympathetic males face great obstacles in trying to modify gender constructions. Clerics point to Iranian females' dress, modesty, and devotion to family and religion as the main markers differentiating Islamic Iranian society from what they view as the corrupt and morally bankrupt West, where women go "naked," sexuality is unfettered, and the family has dissolved. Gender and sexuality lie at the center of reformers' and conservatives' struggle to influence the present and future of Iran (Mir-Hosseini, 1999).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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