Nobel laureate says women should exercise will in sporting veil

Published on Nov 27, 2006 11:41 AM IST

In Iran she has launched a campaign to end discrimination against women, reports Chetan Chauhan.

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None | By, New Delhi

Iranian Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi advocated freedom for women to decide whether they want to wear veil or not. "When men can decide on their attire why is such a liberty not provided to women?" she asked.

Pointing at the paradoxical situation creating unhappiness for Muslim women, she said, "In Islamic countries it is compulsory for women to wear the hijab  (veil) but in some western countries they are being forced to take it off."

She, however, does not have a choice in Iran, where she has launched a campaign to end discrimination against women. Ebadi, her country's only Nobel laureate, wears a veil in Iran but prefers to skip it outside her country.

Repression of women in Iran also has a flip side, she said, with 65 per cent university attendees being women. In India, she found, women in a better situation although found many customs like dowry "indifferent" to women while blaming the "deep rooted in a patriarchal society" for it. But, an exception to the norm was Indira Gandhi, she said, at a function organised to release a book  Place Where We Live is Called A Red-Light Area.

The six-year long protest of Irom Chanu Sharmila against the Armed Forces Special (Protection) Act got international support on Saturday when Iranian Nobel Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi expressed her solidarity with the campaigner.

For her, supporting Sharmila was for "defence of civil liberties" of the citizens, as she defined Army's duty was to "protect rights" and is not to limit "someone's personal freedom".

In a freewheeling interaction with media on Saturday, Ebadi desisted from critising Iran for its nuclear bomb programme while stating that no country in the world needs an atomic bomb.

What touched Ebadi during her four-day stay in India, including a visit to red light area in Kolkata, was the plight of the sex workers and their deprivation, which is amply depicted in the book released on Saturday.

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    Chetan Chauhan is National Affairs Editor. A journalist for over two decades, he has written extensively on social sector and politics with special focus on environment and political economy.

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