Friday, December 29, 2017

On the subjection of women

Is this a nothing or a something? I can't tell:
Police in Iran’s capital said Thursday they will no longer arrest women for failing to observe the Islamic dress code in place since the 1979 revolution.
The announcement signaled an easing of punishments for violating the country’s conservative dress code, as called for by the young and reform-minded Iranians who helped re-elect President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, earlier this year.
But hard-liners opposed to easing such rules still dominate Iran’s security forces and judiciary, so it was unclear whether the change would be fully implemented.
“Those who do not observe the Islamic dress code will no longer be taken to detention centers, nor will judicial cases be filed against them.” Tehran police chief Gen. Hossein Rahimi was quoted as saying by the reformist daily Sharq.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency said violators will instead be made to attend classes given by police. It said repeat offenders could still be subject to legal action, and the dress code remains in place outside the capital.
And this is happening in the context of (slight, very slight) easing up on the restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia. I don't know whether the New York Times is over-hyping this, though.
Now Iran and Saudi Arabia, the archrivals of the Middle East, are competing in a surprising new category: gender equality.
They appear to be vying over who can be quicker to overhaul their repressive rules for women.
.....................
In Saudi Arabia, one of the most restrictive countries for women, the authorities this week allowed female contestants at an international chess tournament to play without the full-body garb known as an abaya. That decision is the latest in a string of liberalizing moves by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the young Saudi ruler, which includes letting women drive.
(The cynic in me wants to say that he is allowing women to drive so they can drive to his palace to pay him the billion dollar bribes he demands to release the dozens? hunderds? he's been holding prisoner).
Roya Hakakian, an Iranian-American poet and journalist who co-founded the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center in New Haven, Conn., wrote in an opinion column published on Wednesday in The New York Times that women in Iran and Saudi Arabia had benefited from “competition between the two regimes to earn the mantle of the modern moderate Islamic alternative.”
She quoted Mariam Memarsadeghi, a co-founder of Tavaana, a civil education website about Iran, who now lives in the United States, as saying that she was not only happy for Saudi women, but “thrilled that the Iranian regime’s false moral superiority is punctured, that the Iranian regime’s laws and actions against women’s rights are made to look backward even by a country long seen as the region’s most backward.”
Others do not necessarily see a link, attributing the changes in Iran to other causes. They say Iran’s young population has proved far more resistant to the government’s societal restraints compared with their parents. The relaxed enforcement of a women’s dress code in Iran may be partly rooted in the impracticality of prosecuting, fining and imprisoning violators.
“Arresting the women and trials in court proved to be too time-consuming,” said Nader Karimi Joni, an Iranian journalist in Tehran. The law has not changed, he said, but now, “cash fines and lashes are at times substituted by ‘educational classes.’”
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Others pointed out that Iran still requires women to wear head coverings in public. Shahrzad Razaghi, a 24-year-old Tehran artist arrested in 2012 for not wearing her hijab properly, said the new enforcement policy “doesn’t mean I can go on the streets without a hijab.”
And in Saudi Arabia, the granting of driving privileges to women, while seen as a quantum leap there, is a right long held by women in Iran, elsewhere in the Middle East and the rest of the world. What women are permitted to wear outside, another issue in Saudi Arabia, is hardly a question in many countries.
“I am sorry to say, we are in 2017 and we are still talking about wearing and not wearing,” said Suad Abu-Dayyeh, a Palestinian who is the Middle East and North Africa consultant for Equality Now, a global women’s advocacy group.
Still, she said, “we’re hoping that what is going on in Saudi Arabia will be continuing.”
I hope so too.

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