Iran backs away from temporary marriages

LONDON, June 9 (IranMania) – The hard-line government is backing away from a plan to promote the tradition of temporary marriage in Iran as a way to avoid extramarital sex, an official spokesman said, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

A temporary marriage, or “sigheh,” refers to a Shiite Muslim tradition under which a man and a woman sign a contract that allows them to be “married” for any length of time, even a few hours. An exchange of money, as a sort of dowry, is often involved.

Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi, a mid-ranking cleric, sparked an uproar last week when he told a clerical conference in the holy city of Qom that Iran should promote the obscure practice for youths who are financially unable to permanently marry.

The centuries-old tradition has become associated with prostitution and female dishonor, and the proposal outraged many Iranians.

“Recent statements by the interior minister are based on a clerical position,” Gholam Hossein Elham, the government spokesman and justice minister, was quoted as saying by IRNA, the official news agency, on Friday. “It is not the idea of the administration.”

Elham, implying that Pourmohammadi raised the issue as a cleric and not a government minister, said: “Discussion and expressing comment in this regard is only within the authority of clerics and experts.”

Some 60 percent of Iran’s population is under 30. And with the economy burdened by high inflation and unemployment, many lack the money to buy or rent their own home.

Pourmohammadi’s call was the first in support of sigheh in over a decade. The last such proposal was similarly withdrawn after strong negative reaction.

Sexual relations outside marriage are banned under Islamic law and opponents argued that sigheh would give wealthy men religious cover to have affairs.

Prostitution was banned in Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution but has increased in recent years. There are no official statistics available in Iran on the number of prostitutes, but unofficial figures published by some media outlets put the number in the many thousands.

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