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Page last updated at 18:33 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 19:33 UK

Iran unveils plan for women's car

By Jon Leyne
BBC News, Tehran

Iranian woman driving in Tehran
Iranian women can drive cars but are not allowed to ride motorbikes

Iran has announced plans for a new car designed specially for women.

Its features will include automatic transmission, parking and navigation aids and a jack for changing tyres without getting grease on your chador.

Iran's biggest car producer, Iran Khodro, says it will come in a range of feminine colours and interior designs.

Other features are proposed to make it easier for women when they are doing the family shopping or taking their children to school.

If that suggests a degree of sexist stereotyping in Iranian society, it is, just possibly, true.

Despite the fact that Iranian women now make up around 60% of university students, Iranian men have yet to absorb fully the message of equality.

A recent study by an academic from Allameh Tabatabaii University in Tehran found that working Iranian women believed that the domestic chores should be shared more equally.

However, according to the report "their husbands think and act traditionally".

Indeed, the idea of married men cooking for their wives is viewed in Iran as highly eccentric.

As a result, the report concludes, Iran's new generation of working women "are obliged to play the role of a superwoman to resolve their contradictions in handling all tasks."

It says such women "have become increasingly frustrated with their life".

'Modesty bikes'

Officially, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists that Iranian women are the most equal in the world.

And the authorities proudly boast of the achievements and opportunities open to Iranian women.

But the official Iranian concept of equality is very different from that understood by Western feminists.

Among the more eccentric policies here, Iran recently announced plans for a special bicycle for women.

None of the machines has been spotted yet, but apparently the idea is to provide special covers, to help preserve female modesty as they pedal.

Women, however, are still banned from riding motorcycles.

However, they can often be seen perched on the back, sometimes with one or two small children in their arms, as their husband weaves through the Iranian traffic.


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