There are paradoxical views of temporary marriage in Iranian society. Proponents view temporary marriage as a factor in preventing prostitution and moral decadence in society, while opponents view it as a way for men to violate the rights of women and children. A considerable number of women in the country do not agree with Sigheh / temporary marriage, which has always been associated with disobedience and not much accepted, but legislation has given temporary marriage semi-legal status, and the religious section of Iranian society has accepted and adhered to temporary marriage as a form of informal cohabitation.
Fig. 1.1 Distribution of families practicing sigheh mahramiat, according to level of religious fidelity or background
The jurisprudence and official law of the country consider temporary marriage and forced marriage because of unintended pregnancy (‘gunshot’ weddings) the same despite their different nature. These issues have not been viewed as separate and independent up to now, while legal and religious ambiguity about temporary marriage and forced / gunshot marriage have led to unpleasant consequences such as early childbearing, dropping out of school, violating women’s rights and physical and psychological harm especially to girls and women regardless of the social conditions of Iran. Forced marriage may arise from issues around unintended pregnancy and family ‘honour’ and sometimes temporary marriage does not even have the protection of the law which does exist.
A house on water
A Comprehensive Study Research on Temporary Marriage in Iran
Persian: Shirazeh Publication, 2019
English: Mehri Publication, London-UK 2019
This study aims to deepen understanding of the phenomenon of temporary marriage (TM) and its role in promoting early child marriage (ECM) in Iran. The research reveals that traditional families wish to control the sexual behavior of boys and girls and avoid the social pressure on them at mixed gatherings, by making them mahram (In Islam, a mahram is a member of one’s family with whom marriage would be considered haram (illegal in Islam); from whom purdah, or concealment of the body with hijab, is not obligatory; and who may serve as a legal escort of a woman during journeys longer than three days) to one another through temporary marriage. It demonstrates that while temporary marriage has a role in legalizing illicit relationships, it also facilitates the ECM narrative in Iran. ECM, however, is not the only by-product of the temporary marriage but contributes to stigmatizing the younger generation in various ways. Moreover, religion is only one contributor to the popularity of temporary marriages, which is more about the control and power exerted by Iran’s patriarchal society and male-dominated culture over the most vulnerable segment of the population: the women.
Fig. Distribution of frequency percentage of family background of participants in temporary marriage
The main motivation for researching temporary marriage and ‘honour’ based forced marriage its legal interpretation whilst conducting research on child marriage (reported in the book Echo of Silence) was that there are many children who enter into ‘marriage’ in secret, without any legal status at all. There are legal vacuums but also some social norms and facilitation of early marriage. The new modes of temporary marriage, together with its legal weaknesses and effects and harms, can impact on individuals, especially women.
In addition to examining the consequences of temporary marriage of children, the book House on Water examined the emergence and prevalence of these new forms of adult marriage, its legal weaknesses, and its effects on individuals, especially women, in cases of miscarriage, alimony, custody, and unwanted pregnancies for first time in Iran. The study examines temporary marriage and new ways of attending it in the metropolitan communities of Tehran, Mashhad and Isfahan.
This study explains the role of temporary marriage in promoting early marriage. Research into early marriage has tended to concentrate mostly on its human rights violation aspects and the way it affects women and gender relations. There has been little research carried out into also seeing it as a violation of the rights of the child. As a result, this chapter also explored the repercussions of early marriage on young children.
Child marriages have decreased worldwide during the past 20 years and are increasingly being recognized as a human rights violation. However, they are still prevalent in most parts of the world including Iran. The elimination of child marriage is vital, as it is intricately linked to issues related to the rights of children and young people. It requires partnership and collaboration across sectors such as education, health, and justice and must include young girls and boys, their families, communities, religious and traditional leaders, governments, and other stakeholders to move toward eradication of this menace.
Non-registration of TM is one of the prominent contributory factors to the increasing trend of child marriages in Iran. Tracking such marriages is not easy, as they are not officially registered. This is no doubt that the registration of temporary marriages would not only highlight the ratio of the ECM prevalence in Iran, but it would also contribute to the prevention of sex trafficking and child prostitution (Matter 2001).
Changing attitudes is the strategy that underpins all other efforts to end early marriage. Real change can only be ensured if we introduce and promote initiatives to change attitudes toward the gender roles of girls and boys in general and toward the practice of early marriage in particular. This calls for amendments in traditional gender roles in societies. Social awakening is a prerequisite to bring a change in communities in order to eradicate child marriages once and for all.
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