Women and the Tenth Administration

Mehrangiz Kar
The demands of Iranian women are not limited to legal reforms. The breadth of the demands is such that the three branches of Legislative, Judiciary and Executive have duties and responsibilities for securing it. With great difficulties and hefty prices paid, women have thus far been able to express their legal demands to the effective law making individuals and bodies. Now that the election and formation of the tenth administration is on the way, it is time for women to request that the candidates publish their plans with respect to the particular problems faced by the female half of the population.

Iranian women consider the tenth administration responsible and duty bound to the degree that the constitution has assigned and are concerned about its stance with regards to the serious problems women may face in the future. The expectation is that the learned communities of Iranian women will make entry into the election centers conditional upon learning about the plans of the candidates and not enter this arena ignorant of those plans. Women consider it their right to approach the election arenas with full knowledge of the features and qualities of those plans. What matters to Iranian women, who have a vast pool of experience, is not the faction the new head of state will be affiliated with, but the plan and budget and expertise he will use to understand the problems of the women in Iran and the method through which he will intend to reach a solution.

What is clear and was proven in a concerning manner by the ninth administration is that, using its various sub-organizations, the executive branch can drastically change the economic, political, and cultural scene of the country with regards to the presence and participation of women. Decisions that were taken by the ninth administration with the intention of limiting women, some continuing the trend set by the previous administrations, clearly showed that although limited power is given to the president in the constitution, him and his administration and the law enforcement forces can play a major role (positive and negative) in changing the individual, social, political and cultural destiny of women. In other words, Iranian women have reached such levels of awareness that they are certain not only the law and lawmaker have prevented them from reaching equality and human rights, but also the administration has a great deal of influence in this matter.

Before the formation of the ninth administration, the situation of the women in the country was far from ideal. After the ninth administration became active, the situation worsened and what little hope had remained was lost. The ministries that were and still are in charge of paving the way and removing the many problems of women moved against their assigned responsibilities to the point that ministries of Education, Higher Education, Guidance, Intelligence, and Health generally implemented plans that were against what little basic rights women had. In the final months of this administration, they remain steadfast on their plans. Such experiences, added to other bitter and historic experiences in the filed of women’s rights requires that:

• Presidential candidates must provide the female half of the population with an opportunity to learn about the plan that the tenth administration will implement with regards to their rights so they can participate in the election and elect their candidate accordingly.

• Iranian women have well understood that the four-year term of a administration can change their destiny in an unexpected way. The experiences of the past thirty years have taught the Iranian women that they have to request their demands from any person or group that is in power independently, within the framework of basic rights, and without partisanship. In their demands, women are addressing those who are lining up their forces and forming the tenth administration and intend to shape the internal and external policies of the next four years. If the head of the current administration candidates himself for presidency in the next election, he would also be addressed by women as one of the candidates. Women hope that if the current president is a candidate in the next election, he revisits his policies regarding women and, before the day of election, speaks of the his policies that will hope fully be a reformation of the old policies.

• The future president who will lead the tenth administration, whoever he may be, must corroborate with the social norms. Neglecting the social realities in an age that the cyber space and internet brings the dissidents and oppressed together is not constructive for a politician. The tenth administration can remove the obstacles from women’s path to aid the formation of a mutual relationship. Correspondingly, once women feel secure, they will discuss their right-based demands directly with the administration and expect the administration’s organs to welcome female expert to determine the “priorities.”

A list of women’s demands that is within the abilities of the administration and its sub-organization to address is as follows:

• Ministry of Science and Higher Education which is a sub-organization of the administration plays an important role in the expansion or limitation of the rights of women. The most important request of women from this ministry is removal of the limitations that the ninth administration insisted on, such as sexual quota in the centers of higher education, ethnic selection and sexual segregation in the universities. It appears that sexual quota and ethnic selections in the universities were done with the intention of decelerating the entry of women into the universities and guiding them towards a career in home making. It is done so because the administrations in Iran have decided that if they are not able to eliminate or adjust the economic or social problems in the country, they must compensate for it by putthing the matter of women’s rights on their agenda. This shows the administration’s outmost irresponsibility. It is the job of an administration to find solutions and a modern administration cannot, instead of creating jobs for the educated women, abuse their rights for the sake of safekeeping a value system. Which value system is there that surpasses the value of equality of people?

If the tenth administration executes the previous policies of sexual quota and ethnic selection, Iranian women will once again face an undesirable situation which they will have to pay a hefty price to change in order to keep their human dignity.

Ministry of Science and Higher Education has the responsibility to create equal educational opportunity with respect to ability for all citizens, male and female alike. If the administration desires the support of the women, it cannot hide its weakness in planning, directing and executing behind such policies and approve of the sexual quota and ethnic selection policies.

• Ministry of Education and Growth is another sub-organization of the administration. The future president can become famous in the contemporary history of Iran by activating this ministry to remove obstacles from the path of women. Iranian women have continuously declared that educational books build culture and so the administration must not use trivial excuses for not changing the sexually discriminating content of these books or adding to the discrimination in the books as it will be acting against the social realities of Iran and the demands of women.
There is no reason why women should be portrayed as cooking, cleaning, sewing, and sweeping in the educational books while in real life they have to compensate for the lack of work or responsibility of men and gain an income by whatever means necessary. Currently, women are somewhat the breadwinners of the family. Even when they are only consumers and a mouth to feed, the economic situation is such that they may lose the financial support of their husband or father at any moment and would have to stand on their own two feet. Hence, it is utterly imprudent to insist on the discriminatory content of the books and completely paralyze and destroy the potential marketability of women. Such cultural policies show the officials of the country have a deep lack of knowledge regarding the social dynamics of the country. Maybe it is a sign that the planning directors plan for an imaginary world in which all men are hard workers, have a job and adequate income, provide housing, healthcare, and welfare for their wives, children, and sisters and all women are comfortable consumers who gladly submit to serving of the family. Such a mental background has become the backbone for administrations planning which, if it continues in the tenth administration, will result in a disaster. Plans and policies that limit all activities by women follow the intent to close all doors to women’s political and social participations. Such policies are not excusable and the presidential candidates must express their opinions with regards to this plain and simple. The administration cannot tyrannize and oppress women with the claim that it is duty bound to safeguard the dignity of the family. Plans that degrade women weaken the dignity of family. Perhaps those who defend the discriminatory content of the educational books should pay attention to the increasing rate of divorce in Iran.

• Ministry of Health and Remedy is another sub-organization of the administration and if its budget and manner of direction is not revised, the rate of victimization of women and children will continue to increase. Although the Ministry of Health and Remedy has experienced successes in healthy pregnancy and other healthcare areas, it has not been able to properly fund and direct the welfare of alone and occupied women and children or cause the return of victimized women and children to a healthy life. Building vocational centers for “alone women” (without a guardian or self-guardian) in a way that would be proportional to the needs of the traditional Iranian job market, as well as creating short term vocational courses for women in educational centers of cities and villages in collaboration with the ministry of Education and Growth and Ministry of Higher Education are programs that the tenth administration is expected to feel responsible to implement. Naturally, creating and executing such programs is not possible without the collaboration of other administration’s organs or without any increase in the Welfare office’s budget. This matter is of very high importance and so the reckless amounts of money allotted for the Social Security Plan should be cut down and instead of spending money in law enforcement activities, the plan to empower “alone women” can be strengthened. Presently, the amounts of budget allotted to women related issues do not corroborate with their real needs and a lot of the social realities of today’s Iran have been neglected in the budget making level. “Alone women” are not limited to divorce, unmarried or widowed women. The accepted definition for this term is vast and includes all women over the age of 14 who lack the abilities and skills required by the job market and do not have a significant male presence in their personal and family life. Presence of a man in place of husband or father does not necessarily guarantee that the man will feel the responsibility to prepare a comfortable life for his wife or daughter. Creating jobs for such women, as constitution and norms dictate, is the responsibility of the administration and their policies on this matter can create a solution.

• Ministry of Housing and Urbanization as a sub-organization of the administration can plan a policy for housing the “alone women” (as defined above). Alone women are continuously being called to enter a market in which they would have to exchange their dignity for a temporary shelter. It is vital that the tenth administration takes the matter seriously and takes steps to resolve it by, for example, requiring the commercial builders who want to obtain a building license to build a number of small residential units that will be allotted for the exclusive free usage of the homeless women, the number of such residential units will be determined based on the size of the builders’ contract. In this matter the administration and the municipality and the city councils will have to collaborate in all the districts of the cities and villages. The policy to provide shelter for alone women will only reduce their rate of victimization.

• Although it is an independent organ, since the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution is headed by the president, its decisions are significantly influenced by his view points. Hence, it is expected that the Iranian women expect the tenth administration and the president to collaborate with them and change the decisions of the Council with respect to the problems of women in the job market. Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution has pushed women’s financial needs to the sidelines by insisting on their home making roles. This council has expressed its opinions in a manner as if it presumes that all Iranian men are financially supporting all Iranian women. As a result of this presumption, the important topic of collaboration of men and women in domestic matters, and on a broader scale in social matters, has been completely forgotten and omitted from administration plans.

• Athletic federations and all the centers that make decisions regarding sports, nurturing, and healthy recreational activities are sub-organizations of administration and play a role in making an important part of women’s demand come to fruition. An increase in sporting spaces for women, which is presently very insignificant, creating opportunity for women to watch sporting events and decreasing the current limitations in various athletic fields for women are serious demands of women from the tenth administration. If the tenth administration follows the path of the previous administrations and pays no mind to this request, it will lose a large group of citizens as supporters.

• Islamic Republic of Iran Radio and Television that supports the administration and the ruling regime, as well as the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and organizations that supervise the press can generally play effective roles in bettering the social situation of women. If the tenth administration pays serious attention to the demands and needs of women, it must accept freedom of speech with respect to the issued of women in family and society. Without this collaboration, women are not able to enjoy effective methods to spread social discussions regarding their rights and have trustworthy channels of communication with the tenth administration and its organs. The press, internet capabilities, radio and television will only be effective in bettering the situation of women if there is freedom of speech.

• Ministry of Intelligence is another sub-organization of the administration. A serious request of the Women’s rights activist from the administration is that, as far as peaceful demanding of rights is concerned, this ministry should act so that women rights activist are not constantly going in and out of state prisons. What is clear is that, in their protests and peaceful demonstrations, women rights activist have always paid attention to national interest and have only expressed their desire for a reform in women’s legal and social status. Iran is a country where over 60% of its students and educated body are female. Adding to that the increasing number of law schools and law students, and an increasing desire for entry into the field of law, judgeship, and legal council, makes Iran a country with special needs that demand the creation of groups such as the women rights organs. Hence, crushing such a special need by the security forces in order to force silence on a large number of right-demanding female lawyers is at odds with the social realities of today Iran.

What is clear is that the administration and its sub-organizations have a lot of opportunities and abilities to create a safe and healthy environment for providing welfare, education, occupation, recreation, and possibility of peaceful demands for women. Hence, all the candidates for the election are expected to publish their plans regarding bettering the situation of women in the areas of family, culture, politics, and economics so that women can make an informed decision on whether or not to participate in the elections.