As the Iranian school year begins today, Human Rights Watch is urging the nation to reconsider the male-only restrictions on 77 majors, including accounting, counseling, and engineering. Alarmingly, the ban was only instituted last month; while no clear reason for the new restriction has been cited by the Iranian government, officials have been disturbed by the declining birth and marriage rates and attributed this change partially to the sea change in accessibility of women's education in the country.
This is doubly shitty because Iranian history actually shows a pretty good track record for women and education. Iran was one of the first Middle Eastern countries to give women access to university studies, and since 1979 has encouraged women to get a higher education. But it appears that officials think it's gone too far: as of 2001, women officially outnumbered men in the Iranian college student body for the first time, a statistic that's now up to 60% female. Another element of the decision came from the amount of women present at Tehran protests over Iran's tumultuous 2009 presidential election, as shown above (not to mention both candidates' vocal wives).
As for the full list of actual majors off-limits to women, it's pretty damn mystifying. While some of them will lead to high-salaried careers that could make women veer off the married-with-kids track, others are... English literature. And we all know what that degree gets you.
Iranian officials argue that 90% of college courses are still open to women, and only 37 institutions have instituted the ban. However, the restrictions will obviously have a ripple effect on female acceptance statistics—the incoming female applicants interested in majoring in one of the banned areas will all be applying to the same schools, and admissions will turn more female applications away in order to strike the appropriate gender balance.
'Lift restrictions on women's education, rights group tells Iran' [Chicago Tribune]
'Iranian university bans on women causes consternation' [BBC News]