Labor Ministry opposes Tehran's proposal for gender segregation

Iran's Labor Ministry has warned that the separation of the sexes in Tehran's municipal administration could provoke an international backlash.

al-monitor Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (2nd L) sits next to Mostafa Pourmohammadi at the Iranian Parliament during a ceremony to mark Parliament Day in Tehran, Dec. 1, 2009. Photo by REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl.
Arash Karami

Arash Karami

@thekarami

Topics covered

women in the workforce, women in society, women and islam, women's rights, tehran, iranian politics, gender segregation, gender discrimination

Jul 30, 2014

Iran’s Labor Ministry has sent a letter to Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf expressing its misgivings about the proposed segregating of the sexes at municipal offices.

Deputy Labor Minister Mohammad Taghi Hosseini wrote to the mayor and Tehran's city council July 4, “As you know, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a member of the International Labour Organization, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, as the national reference for membership in this organization, is required to observe obligations and commitments … to international labor conventions, such as non-discrimination in the work place.”

The letter stated that such a practice could provoke an “international reaction,” even going so far as to say that “it could be considered a human rights violation” by some international organizations.

After the letter became public and was covered by both the domestic and foreign media, the Labor Ministry produced another letter, published by the Iranian Labour News Agency, denying that the original letter had anything to do with the separation of sexes.

According to Khabar Online, approximately two months ago, the Tehran municipality issued a confidential internal memo advising that the other institutions that operate beneath it should create different working spaces for men and women employees. The plan, titled “Improving the Status of Women,” also requested that offices operating under the municipality no longer hire women for the positions of secretary, office manager and typist.

In the follow-up letter, the Labor Ministry wrote, “History shows that these types of memos give those searching for an excuse in international organizations will use it against the achievements of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The news of gender segregation and accusations of the Tehran municipality firing female employees became public July 13, a month and a half after the internal memo was sent. Farzad Khalafi, media affairs deputy for the Tehran municipality, said that a number of female employees were fired for “their own well being,” saying, “The officials at the municipality may be at work until night and visit various projects, and this needs the presence of the office manager. In this case, it’s possible that women would be inconvenienced and strained and not be able to take care of their lives and family, and it’s possible there would be a disruption in their life.” He later denied that any women had been fired.

During Friday prayers on July 18, Ghalibaf blamed the media for claiming that the municipality wanted to “put a wall” between men and women. However, he also said that the municipality believes that for certain projects, men and women could be separated into different rooms to work. He stressed that women working long hours will also cause harm to family life.

On July 23, Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi said that the Tehran municipality would separate the sexes to help efficiency, explaining, “If we can have an environment for women and another environment for men that can increase efficiency and be more calm, this situation is more compatible with our values and customs.”

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