By Track Persia
January 29, 2019
The literal meaning of mut’ah, is ‘pleasure’ or ‘enjoyment’. The mut’ah marriage, a temporary marriage which allows Shi’i Muslim man and woman to be a husband and wife for a fixed time after agreement on a price paid to the wife. This kind of marriage is controversial, given it subjugates women in the name of her protection and it is permissible under Shi’i Sharia law. This marriage can last for one hour, one day, one month or years. Sunni Muslims consider this sort of marriage is illegitimate and immoral.
According to Shi’i Muslims, the mut’ah marriage is rooted in Islamic Sharia law which consider men who practice it as a blessed by God because they are doing a favour to women.
The permanent marriage rate in Iran, a predominately Shi’i country, has dramatically decline over the past years, despite the rising number of the youth who are sexually active. It is estimated that the youth in Iran had reached 11.5 million last year.
Instead of seeking sexual relationships outside the permanent marriage, which is outlawed in Iran and could result in severe punishments, some youth choose the mut’ah marriage. This is an indication that those who practice this marriage use the Shi’i religious law to establish a form of sexual relationship parallel to prostitution.
There have been a few reasons that led to the rise in the mut’ah numbers in Iran over the past years, one of them is poverty. Many Iranians cannot afford to be committed in a permanent marriage that might raise a family. To rectify this problem, the regime has promoted the mut’ ah through campaigns on its media outlets and religious sermons and it has increased the number of registry offices allotted for this sort of marriages.
Conversely, the figures for permanent marriages have been significantly declining because of the regime’s policy. It is predicted that If this decline continues, Iran’s population will shift from a majority young population to an ageing one in a decade.
Before Iran’s the 1979 Islamic Revolution, mut’ah marriage was sanctioned by the government through granting certificates at allocated registry offices. Nonetheless, men could not seek another permanent marriage without getting permission from the court, which in turn had to investigate the applicant’s status and whether he was financially suitable and his wife had no objection.
In the 1970s during Shah Mohammed Riza Pahlavi’s reform campaign, widely known as the White Revolution, the Iranian women gained a number of rights, including a law that forced men to reduce polygamy. That law deterred married men from seeking other wives, including mut’ah wives, given in the Shi’i Sharia law, married men can have as many mut’ah wives as they want, in addition to up to four permanent wives.
Mut’ah marriage was encouraged, however, by the regime of the Islamic Revolution, that overthrew the shah. Temporary marriage was first publicly raised by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1987) who encouraged the mu’tah describing it as the best solution for preventing sins and adultery in the Iranian society. Since then the ma’utah marriage has gained acceptance in Iran, especially after gaining parliament’s approval, despite facing a strong opposition from women.
Some observers think that the mut’ah has benefited Iran’s tourism industry. The number of men who visit Iran seeking mut’ah, in particular from Arab countries, has significantly increased. Mut’ah in Iran has become a lucrative business for those working as middlemen and for those marketing it.
Most women who ended up being involved in mut’ah could not have secured incomes or they were not financially independent because they could not find jobs due to the high unemployment which has recently reached to unprecedented figure, especially if they did not have skills or good education.
In recent years, high figures of sexual activities outside marriage among the youth in Iran has been reported. Homosexuality among young girls and boys has also reached its highest figures, despite the mut’ah marriage is permissible by the Shi’i laws applied in Iran.
Rising poverty in the country has exacerbated by the re-imposition of the US sanctions under the President Donald Trump administration late last year because the US and some other world powers see that the Iranian regime is destabilising the Middle East and it has an ambition of developing a nuclear programme. Poverty has forced some women to seek mut’ah marriage to meet their financial needs and those of their families.
The mut’ah marriage is seen by human rights activists as a violation of women rights and it is used to empower men at the expense of women. They criticise this sort of marriage because they think it does not bind men to be committed to their temporary wives or to the children conceived from this marriage. They see this marriage as a means for exploiting women for men’s sexual pleasure, especially the contract of the mut’ah marriage stipulates that the men should make a payment to the women involved for receiving ‘nikah’ (sex).
Human rights activists consider this marriage a degradation and sexual exploitation of women because women are forced to sell their bodies for money. It reflects social inequalities and discrimination against women, in their views. Most wives who are victims of domestic violence during the mut’ah marriage do not report their abusers because the law is in favour of their abusers.
Despite the regime has repeatedly pledged to make a few reforms to the mut’ah laws, none of these pledges has been taken place. On the contrary, mut’ah has been become an industry in the country and has been increasingly practiced to serve the pleasure-seekers.
As for permanent marriage, in December, a parliamentary motion banning child marriage in Iran has been rejected by parliament which argued that it would force girls to seek a life of prostitution and illegal abortions.
According to Iran’s Association of Children’s Rights, the number of girls married in Iran under the age of 15 climbed from 33,383 in 2006 to 43,459 in 2009, a 30 per cent increase in three years. Experts say the increase is due to deepening poverty and parents’ desire to control their daughter’s sexuality.
The Islamic Republic’s civil code stipulates that the legal age of permanent marriage in Iran is thirteen for girls and fifteen for boys. However, the civil code allows girls as young as nine to marry with the consent of their father or the permission of a judge.
Nonetheless, the mut’ah law does not stipulate the minimum age of the young girls.
That is said, some Iranian women seek mut’ah because they think it can offer them the opportunity to become mothers, despite most fathers of the children resulted from this sort of marriage do not acknowledge their children. This, consequently, has had significant impacts on these children and their mothers. Additionally, in most cases of pregnancies resulted from this marriage, husbands demand abortion which is usually conducted through illegal and unhygienic procedures.