Prostitution, the oldest profession in the world is growing by the year. Prostitution is illegal in Iran and the penalties are severe from 100 lashes to execution. The numbers of prostitutes are increasing despite police crackdowns, especially in the capital city Teheran. The women are often young and include teenagers who have run away from home called “dokhtarani khiyabani” meaning street girls .The runaway girls are usually fleeing home situations where their parents are abusive or are drug addicts or where they are subjected to sexual assaults. Some also are reported to be girls who have been married off at a young age by impoverished parents but face conflicts with older, exploitative husbands. But after they escape to towns and cities, they find they have no employment prospects and end up begging, engaging in petty crime, or working as prostitutes. So what increases prostitution in Iran? Some reasons are the widespread poverty, high rate of divorce, and the amount of runaway girls fleeing abusive homes becomes bate for those who lure them into prostitution.
This is a problem for the Iranian government and to deal with the problem, they have come up with a solution; temporarily marriage also called “Nikah al-Mut’ah.”
This marriage is a fixed term marriage anywhere from 1 hour to 99 years in exchange for a special amount of money which you also can renew again and again if wished. The only thing you need to do is to find an office of a marriage cleric who writes temporarily marriage certifications. The marriage is called “mut’ah” or “sighe” and is generally used by young men and women who want to avoid trouble with the moral police and the men who want to pick up one of the many prostitutes. As everyone knows, there are strict punishment for romance between unmarried men and women, and in case you are sitting in a coffee shop or hanging out in the park with the opposite sex and the moral police pays you a visit, then you can just wave your temporarily marriage certification and avoid 100 lashes.
Men can marry as many women they can afford but women can only be involved with one man and can’t enter another relationship before the 3 months of waiting period is over. Sometimes it’s not about the romance and a few amounts of people do use it for economical reasons or to just share an apartment together. Under temporary marriages, practiced largely by Shiites and banned by Sunni Muslims, there are no limits as to the number of temporary wives a man can take unlike in Sunni communities. Practiced mostly in Iran and used among everybody, even the most religious. In most of the cases the women who become sighe are divorced or widows. Virgin women need to have permission from their father or paternal grandfather to enter into such a marriage, and temporary marriages involving young unmarried women are quite uncommon except among the extremely needy. In case the girls want to enter a real marriage, the virginity can be restored easily for a few hundred dollars.
To relieve lust of youth
Iran’s interior minister, Moustafa Pourmohammadi urged the revival of the practice of temporary marriage permitted under Shiaism to give young people easier legitimate access to sex. The minister also described the practice as “God’s rule” and said it was an alternative to pre-marital sex.
“The increase in the marriage age in this country has caused many problems,” he told a conference in the city of Qom. We have to find a solution to meet the sexual desire of the youth who have no possibility of marriage. Islam is a comprehensive and complete religion and has a solution for every behaviour and need, and temporary marriage is one of its solutions for the needs of the youth,” he stated.
Feminists, clerics and officials have begun to discuss sigheh as a solution to the problems of Iran’s youth that stands for 65% of the 70 million population, combined with high unemployment, means that more couples are putting off marriage because they cannot afford it. This is not the first time that people in the Islamic Republic have tried to promote sigheh as the first person to discuss it openly was Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani when he was President. In a sermon in 1990, he called sexual desire a God-given trait. Don’t be “promiscuous like the Westerners,” he advocated, but use the God-given solution of temporary marriage.
A new plan by some senior Iranian clerics for solving the country’s problem of street prostitution has raised debates. The plan is to create so-called “chastity houses” for destitute women where men could marry them for a few hours. The critics have said that it will push more poor women and runaway girls into becoming prostitutes. The temporary marriage license would protect the couple from harassment by authorities and, according to some proposals; it would be accompanied by free contraceptives and health advice. Under religious law, a temporary marriage imposes no obligations on a man unless the union produces a child, who must be recognized as legitimate and can claim a share of any inheritance. There are already tens of thousands of children from temporary marriages whose fathers do not acknowledge them and therefore are considered illegitimate. These children face difficulties in getting the identification papers needed for school and work. Without these papers, they are shut off from family inheritance and from government assistance normally available to poor or orphaned kids. Besides this the shame follows them all their lives.
Maryam and Karim- A sad love story
Karim gave her clothes and a little money from time to time during their “marriage,” but not the gold coin he had promised her with each renewal of their contract. He told her she was beautiful, something her husband had never done to her. She cleaned his house occasionally and even met his brothers and he met her mother. “She knew that I was with a man,” Maryam said, “but would have preferred I was with him illegally than his sigheh.”
In the 5th year of their relationship, Karim began to call less frequently. Maryam went to a fortune-teller, who told her that Karim was to be married. When she confronted him, he said that it was over and after their contract ran out, he married a virgin chosen by his parents. Because of her divorce, she said, “he told me right from the start that he couldn’t marry me permanently but he treated me so nicely that I thought things would change.” Maryam was so much in love that she even offered to become Karim’s temporary wife again after he was permanently married but he refused.
Picture from Nettavisen and google. Some statistic and information from IPS, pars times, BBC and some Iranian sources.