Despite the harsh conditions for women living under the Sharia laws, Iran has a long history of highly educated women. Indeed, women have been outnumbering men three to one in entrance exams — and outperformed men in many tests. Iranian clerics have mandated a new policy that will surely wipe out that deficiency among men: they are effectively barring women from dozens of degree programs and universities as a whole in some cases. It is a devastating blow for women’s rights and will lock millions of women into lives of subjugation.
Iran has mandated “single gender” studies reportedly out of concern with declining birth and marriage rates. These social ills are blamed by many on the increasing educational levels of women.
Female undergraduates will be barred from studies including but not limited to English literature, hotel management, archaeology, nuclear physics, computer science, electrical engineering, industrial engineering and business management. This has led some universities to say that female applicants will no longer be considered.
Some universities have justified the decision to simply bar women on the ground that 98 percent of female graduates are not hired. This is obviously due to the discrimination against women by both the government and private companies. It is hardly a convincing excuse for academics to join in the anti-intellectual and misogynistic policies of their government.
The move to restrict the higher education of women is more likely an effort to suppress the burgeoning feminist movement in Iran. Under the Shah, women enjoyed relative freedom and many educated Iranian women continue to strive for greater equality in the Islamic Republic.
Kamran Daneshjoo, the science and higher education minister, insists that most degree programs remain open to women. While Daneshjoo claims that 90 percent of programs are still open to women, that figure does address the number of women in these respective programs. The new limitations affect choice programs that likely attracted a higher number of women. They also represent some of the most rewarding careers like engineering.
The denial of opportunity to women will now make a desperate situation for some women perfectly intolerable. The denial of the intellectual advancement of these women is an international disgrace. It is also remarkably stupid for a country that desperately needs highly educated professionals.