Women drivers in Iran: are they wearing their seatbelts?

At first glance there’s something ridiculous about news of Iran’s “gender sensitive car”. Could it even be a hoax story? (Well, apparently not). 

A government-backed Iranian car company called Iran Khodro is launching it next June, to coincide with Iranian women’s day. They’re going to be available in “feminine” colours, with decorative features on the dashboards (none of these ugly dials and numbers!), special sensors to assist in parking, automatic gear-boxes and lightweight jacks for changing wheels. 

Well, I never.  On one level I guess this is just normal car marketing. After all, what about those endless (endlessly patronising?) Renault Clio ads of the 1990s? Talk about ad nauseam! (Geddit?)

 

But then again, call me a cynic, but isn’t the concept of a dinky, pastel-coloured woman’s car in Iran altogether more bizarre and faintly sickening? This is a country where a woman’s evidence in court is worth half that of a man, where a man can have many wives while young girls are married off to older men by their fathers, and where dozens of equality campaigners have been harassed, attacked, arrested and imprisoned?

(Read more here and check out the Iranian Campaign for Equality website for more background – though no reviews of female-friendly cars yet.  And, please join the several thousand people  – many at this weekend’s Amnesty laugh-fest Secret Policeman’s Ball – who have been lending their support to our petition on behalf of these campaigners: go to this site or text the word “Iran”' followed by your first and last name to 64118). And, for good spleen-venting action, check out this none-too-impressed-wth-the-Iranian-cars-story blog from Louisiana.  

Ok, so Iran’s not Saudi Arabia, where institutionalised discrimination forbids a woman from even getting in the driving seat – but to me, launching a gender-sensitive car against this backdrop of inequality leaves a distinctly unpleasant aftertaste.

Meanwhile, no irony intended I’m sure, but I couldn’t help noticing that the Telegraph’s online story on the Iranian women’s car has a sidebar ad for an aggressively bright red Alfa Romeo 159 TI looking altogether like the ultimate more-macho-than-Clarkson DRIVING MACHINE. (Grrrrr!) 

Now that’s a car for the rugged Alfa Male!

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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