Islamic Fundamentalism and Women's Economic Role: The Case of Iran

  • Roksana Bahramitash


It is commonly believed that Islamic fundamentalism is responsible for the low female employment rate in the Middle East and North Africa. I earlier presented evidence from Indonesia indicating that the deteriorating conditions of women's economic role in the 1990s was related to the economic circumstances of the Asian Crisis, not to the rise of political Islam (Bahranitash, 2002). In fact, in Indonesia, increasing support for the Islamic movement was itself spurred by the Asian Crisis. As a contrasting case, I here examine Iran, a country where political Islam has been in power for over two decades. If commonly held views about the impact of the Islamic religion on female employment were true, one would expect a steady or sharp decline of the female employment rate in postrevolutionary Iran. The empirical data show the reverse. Women's formal employment rates increased in the 1990s and did so much faster than they had during the 1960s and 1970s, when a pro-Western secular regime was in power. This sharp increase in women's employment seriously challenges the view that religion explains women's economic status in Muslim countries. The evidence from Iran indicates that the situation of women's employment there has followed a common pattern of elsewhere in the South—an overall increase in female employment. This fact then suggests that the forces of international political economy, rather than religion, appear to be a determining factor in the state of women's economic role in Iran.

fundamentalism Islamization political Islam Iran Iranian women's employment Islamic laws and women's rights economic liberalization 


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roksana Bahramitash
    • 1
  1. 1.Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia UniversityMontrealCanada

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