is Gender Apartheid?
The term apartheid means segregation. As far as it relates to a
political system, its precedent is the racial apartheid in South
Africa which was based on racial discrimination and segregation.
That regime was in power from the beginning of the 20th century
until a few years back and its entire policies were based on racial
segregation. In it, white people were the most privileged section
of society, whilst black people were deprived of nearly all their
rights. This system was known all over the world as a fascist system
and progressives, communists and civil rights supporters both inside
South Africa and all over the world struggled against it until that
regime surrendered and fell.
What is Gender Apartheid?
When we talk
about sexual apartheid in Iran, we are in fact pointing to its similarity
with the racial apartheid of South Africa. In Iran, women and men
are segregated from each other and women are deprived of their rights.
This segregation is the very same apartheid. We began calling the
Islamic Republic of Iran a system of sexual apartheid. We now see
other groups using the same term to describe the Islamic Republic.
segregation; however, in this segregation you always have a domination
of one race, sex, ethnicity, and religion over others. Apartheid
does not mean that the segregated group has equal rights and is
merely segregated. As we witnessed in South Africa, this segregation
is the result of discrimination, lack of rights and extreme inequality
between the two groups. In Iran too we see discrimination, lack
of rights and the oppression of women. When we talk about apartheid
we mean segregation in the said country. There might be extreme
oppression of women in a country but it's possible that segregation
between women and men is not the law. Such a system cannot be called
apartheid; it is a chauvinistic and patriarchal system. By sexual
apartheid in Iran, I mean the segregation of women and men and the
imposition of compulsory veiling on women according to the law.
The Islamic Veil and gender apartheid
The veil is
the symbol of women's slavery and apartheid. That is why the veil
is a very central issue politically. As far as the position of women
is concerned, the veil has a serious restrictive effect on the development
and progress of women. Right from the beginning when they impose
the veil on little girls in an initiation ceremony, they are making
her believe that she is not human, is unimportant and a slave. This
is the role that the veil plays and fighting it is important. The
veil is the symbol of the Islamic Republic politically too. Right
from the first day of its gaining power, this regime raised the
banner of the veil; and from the beginning, the women's equality
movement rose up against it. Politically, the struggle against the
veil is one of the most important aspects of the battle of the women's
equality movement against the Islamic Republic of Iran and it is
very significant. If women win this battle, the Islamic Republic
will be overthrown.
Women's oppression or religious oppression?
There is inequality
all over the world but there is a huge difference between what we
see in Sweden, France, etc. and countries where Islam rules as the
official religion and oppressive governments have imposed Islamic
laws and Islamic culture and traditions on the people. Even in these
countries there are different levels of Correctness. In some of
these countries, some civil liberties are recognized which in others
they are not. When we talk about the Islamic Republic of Iran or
the Afghanistan of Taliban or other countries which officially call
themselves Islamic and religion is completely intertwined in all
aspects of the state, it's very clear that the position of women
in these societies are much worse than other countries. In these
countries, apartheid and the segregation of women and men exist
officially. This is not women's lack of rights and discrimination
but the complete segregation of two sexes like that of racial segregation
in South Africa.
Discussing gender apartheid is completely linked to Islam and religion.
Islam advocates the segregation of women and men. The veil is an
'inner and outer sphere' issue in which women should not be near
men because they are evil beings who provoke and stop men from carrying
out their duties and tasks. Men are deemed without any control,
their hormones rule; just looking at women destroys their lives.
This is a reactionary and chauvinistic outlook. Women are portrayed
as evil and men as having no resolve and control; although it does
ensure men's dominance over women, in fact it is an affront to both
Islam prescribes apartheid. That is why sexual apartheid exists
only in the Islamic-stricken countries. In other countries where
other religions are dominant, there is patriarchy and chauvinism
but we do not have systems of sexual apartheid. Men and women can
sit on a bus next to each other. Women do not have to veil themselves.
Men and women can work in an office next to each other and although
there is discrimination against women, they do not have to be segregated.
It is Islam that prescribes and advocates sexual apartheid.
Is there resistance in Iran?
In Iran, both
women and society have not given in to apartheid at all. Right from
the beginning when the Islamic Republic planned compulsory veiling
and began to sack women and send them home (shortly after coming
to power), the regime saw itself in confrontation with women. We
witnessed a massive struggle against the Islamic Republic. At the
time, there was still an illusion about the regime and many saw
it as the result of rather than the suppression of the revolution.
Right from that
day, the history of the Islamic Republic has been filled with misogyny
on the one hand and an unrelenting struggle of women against anti
women and reactionary laws. During these years, we have witnessed
the deepening and broadening of this struggle, particularly by the
new generation who refuses to accept these traditions and laws.
Female university students form more than 50% of the student population.
They are striving to resist the regime, to learn and be independent.
Of course, after graduation, the majority face added hurdles in
finding employment. Religious laws and traditions prohibit the development
of women and girls in the economic, social and political spheres
and does not allow even those women who are so- called 'insiders'
and a part of the government system to progress.
for women's liberation in Iran strives for abolition of gender apartheid
and establishment of a free and secular society. It is a strong
movement. It can gain more momentum with international support and
solidarity. Just as racial apartheid in South Africa was defeated
by the help of the international solidarity, so can gender apartheid
be defeated in Iran.
Azar Majedi Site
Women's Liberation Iran (Azadi