November 12, 2019
Polygamy has been a hot topic on Persian-language social media in recent days following a series of efforts to promote the practice among Iranians. Most people’s reactions have been negative; whether surprised, bemused, or sometimes angry, Iranians have seemed unimpressed that, especially given the current social and economic crises, some people have decided to promote polygamy and to argue for its moral and philosophical values. Debates, discussions and PR initiatives such as new poster campaigns are all advocating a way of life that has little clout in mainstream contemporary Iranian society.
One example is Mohammad Asgari, head of the Counseling Unit at Hassani Life Institution. Asgari, who is responsible for conducting polygamy workshops, recently told journalists that in Iran that between 4 and 5 million women between the ages of 30 and 49 do not have a spouse. He asked: Don’t they have a right to get married?
The refrain that there are more women than men is a well-established justification for polygamy. An article published on September 5, 2018, explicitly referred to the situation as proof of “the social necessity for polygamy in Islam.”
This justification is not unique to Shia thinkers. The Sunni scholar Molavi Abdulhamid, Zahedan’s Sunni leader of Friday prayers, said two years ago: “Polygamy is a rational thing because women are more populous than men.” At that time, the Factnameh website checked this remark and proved that the claim had no basis. According to official statistics, except for the age group of between 50 and 70 years, there are more men than women in all other age groups.
IranWire will therefore outline an accurate picture of the current demographic situation in Iran by quoting the latest census data and answering a few questions.
Are there more single women than single men?
The population of single males in Iran is 550,000 larger than that of single women. According to the 2016 census, the single male population is estimated at 12,586,000 and the single female population at 11,709,000.
A comparison of age groups shows that in the 20 to 24 age demographic, the number of single men is higher than that of women, with a population gap of more than 1,192,000. As the age increases, the number of single women also gradually increases.
If we look at the age range of 20 to 40 years old, we can conclude that the number of single men is about 2,104,000 more than the number of single women.
How many Iranian men and women have never married?
A comparison of statistics on men and women who have never married shows that the number of men is about 3 million more than women in this category. According to the 2016 census, more than 11,558,000 men over the age of 10 years old and 8,597,000 women over the age of 10 years old are on the list of those who have never married.
Given the fertility concerns of polygamy advocates, if we look at the age range of between 15 and 49 years old (as defined by the Statistical Center of Iran), we see that the number of women never married is about 3,333,000 and the number of single men is about 5,694,000.
What percentage of Iranian men and women have no spouse due to divorce?
A comparison of statistics shows that the number of divorced single women is about 313,000 more than men. Compared to 399,000 single men, there are 713,000 single women who live without a spouse due to divorce. The rate of remarriage after divorce in men is probably higher than among women; or as stated below, some women may have reported being divorced at the time of the census, even though their divorce had not yet been finalized.
How many men and women have lost their spouse?
The number of married women who have lost a husband and not remarried is also much larger than that of men who did not remarry after the death of a wife. This gap is more than 2 million people, with more than a million cases over the age of 65 years. This may be because men have a higher life expectancy than women.
How many men have more than one wife?
Mohammad Asgari, the counseling head at Hassani Life Institution, which organizes polygamy workshops, believes that there are 100,000 men with multiple wives in Iran. He does not provide a source for his statistics – saying only that accurate statistics can be obtained from official agencies.
But IranWire has found that searching for official polygamy statistics is futile. Comparisons and calculations on marital status statistics for men and women also lead to contradictory results, as the 2016 census results suggest that the married male population is more than that of women, which is questionable. Census officials say that there are two reasons for this difference. The first reason is the marriage of Afghan men whose families are not in Iran but are calculated in the census. In the 2016 census, the number of Afghans living in Iran was 1,584,000. The population of Afghan men over the age of 15 years was 91,000 more than Afghan women.
The second reason is widespread misrepresentation in census answers, especially among women on the verge of divorce who have declared themselves unmarried, even though their divorce process had not yet been finalized.