Sunday, June 29, 2008

In Mothers' Paradise, no men allowed

The mayor of Teheran has created "Mothers' Paradise," a park strictly for women. With an astute disposition of broad-canopied trees and surrounded by a a fence covered in green and orange canvas, the park protects women from the gaze of men on the ground and even in airplanes flying overhead. Inside the park, women are thus free to engage in sports like cycling or jogging without being encumbered by the head coverings they are otherwise required to wear. This is not the first such park in Iran, nor the first woman-only installation: before becoming Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was mayor of Teheran. There, he introduced sex-segregated elevators, taxis and hospitals where female patients are treated only by female "medical workers." While many women are happy to be able to move about freely in parks like Mothers' Paradise, women's rights activists like Teheran-based lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh point out that such parks are further instances of discrimination against women that violate international conventions. Riders on Mexico City's pink bus about which we've blogged might welcome a Mothers' Paradise or even Sotoudeh's extreme scenario of sex-segregated districts or entire cities (remember Christine de Pisan's City of Ladies?), but what women everywhere really want is not to have to exclude men, but to be free and equal in their company.

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