Thirty-six universities in Iran have announced that 77 courses in their curriculum will be “single-sex,” prompting an outcry at home and worldwide over women’s rights in the Islamic state.
The subjects now only available for men include accounting, engineering, pure chemistry, English literature and translation, hotel management, and many others, Iranian news website Rooz Online reports. For instance, the University of Tehran will now open exclusively to men the courses related to mathematics, natural resources, and forestry.
The announcement comes a fortnight after the move was reported by the semi-official Mehr News Agency, but back then the decision has not been officially confirmed by educational institutions.
The limitations have been listed in the universities’ leaflets. The changes are to be implemented in the coming year, the Telegraph reports.
Exiled Iranian Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi has urged the UN to immediately investigate the matter, calling the move an attempt to derail Iranian women’s fight for their rights.
"[It] is part of the recent policy of the Islamic Republic, which tries to return women to the private domain inside the home as it cannot tolerate their passionate presence in the public arena," Ebadi wrote in her letter to Ahmad Shaheed, the UN's special rapporteur for human rights in Iran.
The controversial move has also led to Iranian parliamentarians calling the Science and Higher Education Minister Kamran Daneshjoo to explain the decision.
The top education official brushed aside the criticism, saying that 90 per cent of degrees remain open to both sexes, and that single-sex courses were needed to create "balance".
“Some fields are not very suitable for women’s nature,” another senior education official, Abolfazl Hasani, said.
The move comes amid reports that the country’s women have excelled over men greatly in recent years, causing senior Iranian clergy members to express their concern about the increasing academic success among women in the Islamic State.
According to UNESCO, Iran has highest ratio of female to male students in the world, with the country’s women outnumbering men three to two and making up about 60 per cent of all undergraduates.