Iran is relatively liberal on social issues

By Razib Khan | November 23, 2011 9:46 am

We’ll be talking about Iran a lot in the near future in the United States. I doubt we’ll invade the country (thank god). But one thing I think needs to be emphasized: on social issues Iran is more “progressive” than many of our close allies in the region, like Saudi Arabia, and one of the more progressive nations in the region. This is neither here nor there in the domain of geopolitics, but to convince a public about something it is often necessary to make a cartoon or caricature the enemy. I think it is important to remember though that aside from Israel our closest allies in the region are techno-feudal monarchies like Saudi Arabia, not those nations, like Iran, which have made a more thorough accommodation with modernity out of necessity (because oil can’t support the whole economy). It also reminds us that labels like “Islamic Republic” may not be totally useful.

As a gauge of modern outlook, as understood in the West, I poked around the World Values Survey. The results are for wave 4, around ~2000. The question asked was: A wife must always obey her husband. Possible answers:
– Agree strongly
– Agree
– Neither agree or disagree
– Disagree
– Strongly disagree

Below are two tables with nations which responded to this question. I stratified by sex and educational level of respondents. The sample sizes are in the “Total” column. The other numbers are percentages, summed along the rows to 100%. There are some surprises, but I’ll let the data speak for itself….


TotalAgree stronglyAgreeNeitherDisagreeStrongly disagree
Algeria125244311582
SexMale63557271161
Female617313520112
Bangladesh148934491052
SexMale8253849841
Female66429491273
Indonesia99227526123
SexMale4993650671
Female49318556175
Iran (Islamic Republic of)24962428181712
SexMale1343313117147
Female11531625202119
Iraq23056425902
SexMale11146327902
Female119165241002
Jordan121943317127
SexMale5935729564
Female626293410189
Morocco101256241361
SexMale49666221031
Female51647271781
Nigeria20208313211
SexMale10318710111
Female9897917311
Pakistan19752819202013
SexMale10213418191712
Female9542221212314
Saudi Arabia149452301332
SexMale7536426810
Female74139331954
Turkey3368324215110
SexMale170639411380
Female1662254316150
Egypt3000473112100
SexMale154053291170
Female1460403414120
Total2262244311294



TotalAgree stronglyAgreeNeitherDisagreeStrongly disagree
Algeria124844311582
Education level (recoded)Lower30149311280
Middle54446311671
Upper403393017104
Bangladesh14763449952
Education level (recoded)Lower7893452852
Middle40137461053
Upper28631491272
Indonesia98527536122
Education level (recoded)Lower2412558583
Middle41128535131
Upper33329496133
Iran (Islamic Republic of)23912428181712
Education level (recoded)Lower757362716129
Middle9812131191811
Upper6531625192218
Iraq22886425902
Education level (recoded)Lower12986725701
Middle57763241103
Upper41355291303
Jordan121743317127
Education level (recoded)Lower5875427676
Middle33236348158
Upper29727389198
Morocco101256241361
Education level (recoded)Lower78863241030
Middle160382622131
Upper64223025149
Nigeria20128313211
Education level (recoded)Lower7688313211
Middle7748513111
Upper4708015320
Pakistan19732819202013
Education level (recoded)Lower1078362712916
Middle614201033316
Upper2811311243617
Saudi Arabia149452301332
Education level (recoded)Lower13546311364
Middle97352291332
Upper38652301332
Turkey3179334314110
Education level (recoded)Lower19753748960
Middle918293918140
Upper287152333290
Egypt2998473112100
Education level (recoded)Lower15165332970
Middle927433115110
Upper555383018150
Total2227245311294
CATEGORIZED UNDER: Data Analysis
MORE ABOUT: Data
ADVERTISEMENT

Comments (18)

  1. Emily

    Here’s another shocker. It turns out that the Iranian election in 1979 was rigged. OMG – who knew?

  2. pconroy

    Hmmm, so 79% of Nigerian women agree strongly that a wife must always obey her husband.

    …how much are the air fares to Lagos again??

  3. #1, what’s your point? be clearer or i’ll ban you.

  4. Are the Nigerian responses limited to the Muslim population?

  5. #4, no. 86% for muslims, 82% for xtians.

  6. zach

    Hi Razib,

    nice blog post. I just went to the WVS to see how the US would stack up on the same question. However, it looks like this question was not asked among the US surveys….. I would imagine European countries would be strongly negative but I am curious how strong the traditionalists in the US would answer this question. Pakistan’s answer was certainly surprising to me.

  7. Anthony

    Interesting that Pakistan has less difference between male and female responses than does Iran, but still higher than most other Muslim countries.

    If I wanted to trade in stereotypes, I’d guess that the high female disagreement among Iranian women stemmed from a more general attitude among Iranians that the world revolves around themselves, or from more Iranian than Arab women sharing that sort of attitude.

  8. I suppose it’s important to understand Iran relative to its neighbors. But it is still morally unacceptable for so many of its citizen to think this way.

  9. John Emerson

    What are the US numbers?

  10. Paul R

    #2, probably less expensive than a Nigerian mail-order bride site. A point most Nigerians would agree on- though whose fault this is is a matter for debate.

  11. Xerxes

    As a British/Iranian, the result of your pole does not surprise me about Iranian Men/Women views. However, I would (like John Emerson) like to ask how do these figuers compare with US and UK? Maybe then we can have a better understanding of your figures.

  12. One could argue something similar on democratic politics. Iran is certainly not a full and free democracy, but its elections are more democratic the systems of Saudi Arabia, Oman, pre-Iraq War Iraq, Kuwait, UAE, pre-revolution Libya, pre-revolution Yemen, pre-revolution Egypt, or Syria (or for that matter Cuba or North Korea).

    In Iran, there are genuine decisions within the realm of theocratic acceptability between genuinely differing candidates and the democratic institutions in revolutionary Iran have some real power and are not pure consultive or figurehead institutions. Overall, its position on the demcracy to dictatorship scale is on a par with China perhaps.

    Iran is less democratic than Turkey or contemporary Indonesia, and probably less democratic than Pakistan or Bangladesh.

    An understanding of the social and political “moderation” of Iran relative to some of its neighbors as being a function of the need for representation when the state needs taxation and can’t simply rely on ownership of natural resources is also a pretty plausible analysis of why it is this way, although it doesn’t do much to explain why a country like Pakistan isn’t much better democratically and politically than it actually seems to be.

  13. Michelle

    Anthony #7…Exactly what do you mean by “If I wanted to trade in stereotypes, I’d guess that the high female disagreement among Iranian women stemmed from a more general attitude among Iranians that the world revolves around themselves.” I have lived in many different countries, including Iran, and I have found that every country suffers from the belief that the world revolves around it. Americans are irritated when they see this attitude in others, but they too suffer from a delusion of cultural and moral superiority.

  14. What are the US numbers?

    Those are the only countries for which there are data for that question. It appears to have only been asked in Muslim countries.

  15. That’s too broad of a question. A more interesting question would be to ask whether a woman should be stoned to death for adultery or sex outside marriage. The international community condemned iran for that sentence. Well, let’s see whether the policy is the goverment’s idea or a reflection of the people’s view.

  16. hass

    In Iran, you’ll find a world class reduction in fertility (with the Mideast’s only condom factory, and mandatory sex ed classes), massive program to build cars that run on natural gas, world class AIDS programs, free needle exchange programs for addicts, government funded sex change operations, a system of healthcare for the poor that is being used as a model inbthe US, teaching evolution, etc.

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/03/how-iran-derailed-a-health-crisis/

    http://www.fasebj.org/content/20/13/2183.full

  17. xerxes

    Michelle, cannot agree with you more. Well said. As for Anthony, look up in history, Persians had human right charter 2500 years ago. Maybe that history has a little bit to do with the attitude of Iranians!

  18. Eugenick

    Nothing unexpected. Unlike the Saudis, Iranians actually have a recent secular past & traditions to cling to, in this case the progressive Pahlavi regime. Similarly, Pakistanis have the British secular traditions to remember, although more distant in time.

    The Egyptians also had Lord Cromer, his influence lasted for a while too: http://islamizationwatch.blogspot.com/2010/02/steady-islamization-and-arabization-of.html

    Unfortunately, in all of those cases the secularization did not go far enough so as to eradicate religious fanaticism. Ataturk, however, managed what the Shah and the British could not.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT

RSS Razib’s Pinboard

Edifying books

Collapse bottom bar
+