Iran's first women-only bank opens: IRNA

Mon Jun 7, 2010 8:27am EDT
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* Shopping and banking not generally segregated in Iran

* Service will appeal to more conservative families

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's first women-only bank branch opened Monday, allowing women to manage their finances without dealing with unrelated men -- something likely to appeal to religious families who oppose mingling between the sexes.

Under sharia, the Islamic legal system imposed after Iran's 1979 revolution, unrelated men and women are forbidden to have intimate contact.

However, this is not generally taken to include activities such as banking or shopping, and women do commonly use banks where they may be served by someone of either sex.

Bank Melli -- one of Iran's biggest retail banks -- opened the women-only branch in the holy city of Mashhad as a service to women, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported.

In recent years women-only taxis, with female drivers, have become available in some Iranian cities, as well as public gardens where men are not allowed.

Buses in Iran are segregated, with women sitting at the back.

A local judiciary official said last month that the maximum fine for breaching the Islamic dress code -- which decrees that women must cover their hair and wear long shapeless coats -- was 13 million rials (over $1,300).

(Reporting by Hossein Jaseb; Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Kevin Liffey)