Ghulam Abbas Turki, Iran’s deputy-chief prosecutor, has instructed the country’s ministry of health to prevent male physicians from treating female patients, saying this is a violation of morals and the law.

Turki wrote in a letter published on Sept. 14 that men working in a technical and non-technical capacity in “certain clinics” were creating “problems and difficulties for respectable ladies and their families” and even causing them “emotional and psychological problems.”

He added that article 290 of the country’s criminal code is designed to address this.

A shortage of women’s clinics like birthing centers, especially in provincial districts, is forcing women into hospitals with male staff, Turki wrote, Therefore, the ministry must reorganize to ensure it had the necessary female staff, from specialists to GPs, technicians, anaesthetists and nurses, across the country.

Gender segregation was on the Islamic Republic’s agenda almost as soon as it took power early in 1979, and it has since sought to implement it where it could. Most recently, following mass rioting in 2022 that was in part a revolt against the Iranian regime’s forceful moralizing, the state has resumed efforts to enforce its hijan or public modesty and dress norms.

Last month, Armita Geravand, an Iranian teenage girl died after reports that she was accosted by officials on Tehran’s Metro while not wearing a headscarf. Geravand’s death comes after her being in a coma for weeks in Tehran and after the one-year anniversary of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini which sparked nationwide protests at the time.

Beyond the hijab crackdown, the regime is also now taking a step further with gender segregation.

More importantly, the parliamentary legal affairs committee has approved a 70-article Hijab and Modesty Bill the judiciary proposed to parliament in the spring of 2023.

The bill wants health ministry premises, including hospitals, to separate men and women throughout their premises, and the ministry must create “special environments to provide medical services” to women, to be respected except “in exceptional cases” where a man must attend to a female patient.

It also wants city halls to increase the number of special buses for women and enforce gender segregation on other buses.

The bill wants recruitment procedures to consider job candidates’ “active” respect for hijab norms and favour those who wear the hijab. It also foresees prizes for women in sports “promoting the hijab culture,” and seeks women’s universities and colleges.

On the other hand, sporting and media personalities reluctant to promote the hijab should face penalties including, in grave cases, whipping.

The bill touches on other issues like who can wash a corpse.

Parliament has yet to vote for it, before it is sent for definitive approval or rejection by the Guardian Council, a body of constitutional jurists. Yet the bill is effectively being implemented in any case, here and there.

Written by Benson Victoria Temitope