A widely accepted view, both in scholarly and more general writing, is that Muslim women benefit from a regime of secular law and suffer under religious law. Thus, we are accustomed to conflating the situation of women in countries as diverse as Iran and Afghanistan and thinking that the status of women in both is dreadful. In fact, however, indicators of women’s advancement in Iran1 are quite comparable to those of women in Turkey, which has had a secular tradition since 1924. In contrast, the situation of women in Afghanistan continues to be abysmal. At a glance, then, it appears that the presence or absence of shari’a as the law of the state is, at the least, non-determinative, whatever influence it may have. It is in fact my hypothesis that the situation of women is impacted less by the nature of the legal regime than by their political status; that is to say, the salience of women to the political process and their active involvement in it. Iran is my key example of this hypothesis, and modifications in the law of marriage and divorce there since the Islamic Revolution of 1978 to 1979 constitute my data. Let me first set out some actual data. With respect to literacy, illiterates as a percentage of Iranian women aged 15 to 24 declined from over one-third in 1980 to under 10 percent in 2000.2 Over the same period, the illiteracy rate for the entire population of adult women was cut in half, from about 60 percent to about 30 percent.3 As for education, the number of women in secondary school as a percentage of the eligible age group more than doubled from about 30 percent to almost 80 percent.4 As of 1999, for every 100 boys in primary school, 96 girls were enrolled, indicating that boys and girls were almost equally likely to be learning basic literacy and numeracy skills.5 In 2000, one-half of all Iranian university students were women,6 as were 60 percent of entering students,7 who were selected on the basis of a difficult nationwide exam. Twenty-seven percent of working-age women were in the labor force as of 2000, up from 20 percent in 1980.8 In terms of health, life expectancy went up by 11 years between 1980 and 2000 for both Iranian men and women.9 With respect to family planning, “levels of childbearing have declined faster than in any other country,” falling from an average of 5.6 births per woman in 1985 to only 2.0 births in 2000,10 a drop accomplished by a voluntary, but government-sponsored, birth control program.11