, ,

I was reading a small article in the September 20th edition of Maclean’s Magazine about Iran and the one-hour marriage. I didn’t know that it is illegal in Iran to have sex outside of marriage, and that the punishment can be 100 lashes. In my vastly western education I have been exposed to the concept of what Iran is. I was but a little nibblet the Shah was ousted and then the Iran-Iraq War (gamely supported by the Soviets and Americans) raged on. Iran, from my childhood, was a mysterious place filled with religious fanatics who were throwing off western decadence. And while holidaying in Lithuania last year I watched a lot of the BBC World Service with regards to the demonstrations in June’09 over the election results. So I know that Iran is a country with deep religious roots and regional tribal customs & governance.

But this article in Maclean’s I found very interesting. Because of the extra-marital laws there’s this concept of the quickie marriage – which can last from one hour to 99 years, depending on how the terms are negotiated and for a specified sum of money. Ahmadinejad, the President, is looking to make the laws allowing these “marriages” to be even more man-friendly by allowing men to circumvent the requirement for them to ask permission of their First Wife for such a relationship. As I understand, the First Wife’s permission is necessary for a man to marry another woman (second, third etc wife). By allowing men to circumvent this requirement, these men can enter into these temporary marriages. Is this prostitution? I believe so, and yet the authorities are turning a blind eye to it by not calling it such. Here in Canada if you negotiate a one hour relationship in exchange for money, it’s called prostitution and such a transaction is illegal (though rarely are the laws enforced).

Feminists are decrying the practice of these quickie marriages as sexual exploitation and calling it what it is – legalised prostitution. And yet, according to the article, there was a 28% increase last year in Tehran. Is it legalised prostitution if this is the only way you can get married due to your own economic circumstances? What if you can’t afford a bride-price/dowry? I’d love to read a bit more about this.