anthropology iran

The Suppress Role of Religion and the Dominancy of Culture in Temporary Marriage of Children and Teenagers

Iranian society is religious. Even if religious and worshiping deeds are not performed, it will be considered as a traditional religious society, because of social training and religious sociality of the families, schools and media. Beased on Shia religion and the Civil Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the age of 13 and even less, in case of the court’s and the parent’s permission is legitimate for marriage. However, these types of marriages are not accepted among people, social activists, and international human rights entities. They are mostly common among religious, traditional families or the ones that are vulnerable (with weak economic conditions, addict parents, and bad guardians), leading to child marriage, as a result. In this type of marriage, the family makes decision for their children, and even if the children are satisfied, their satisfaction cannot be deemed the consequence of their wisdom. Sigheh Mahramiat is often practiced for these children by force. They normally do not have an understanding of marriage concept and accept that without any reason due to the request of their parents.

Controlling sexual behaviour of children is an important reason of practicing Sigheh Mahramiat and child marriage at young ages; and the consent of children is not of high significance. Majority of the children forced to get married, consider themselves as women after a while rather than children. This issue causes numerous spiritual, psychological, and social losses. Child divorce is among consequences of child marriage in iran. In fact, marriage laws try to increase marriage figures; unaware of the fact that these types of marriages increase possibility of child divorce. Another consequence of child marriage is preventing the child from having the minimum education. In case these children live in traditional societies, they may not be able to take advantage of required information. Certainly, these habits are transmitted to their children and may involve future generations too. In other words, cultural factors like deprivation from the minimum education prevent children’s talents and skills to blossom. The factors are transmitted from a generation to another one, under the title of “Culture of poverty”, perpetuating poverty among a special social class.

Temporary marriage and Sigheh Mahramiat are among religious beliefs of Shia Muslims. On the contrary to Sunni ones, Shia Muslims consider temporary marriage as a religious traditional act which is not illegitimate, but something deserving an otherworldly reward. Based on Shia Hadiths and narrations, Mut’ah is among traditions which should be practiced in order to prevent corruption in society. However, the tradition is specifically for the men who are not able to practice permanent marriage due to difficult economic status. Based on Shia jurisprudence, temporary marriage and Sigheh Mahramiat are legitimately permissible. Majority of religious sources and scholar in Islamic Republic of Iran also believe unanimously that Sigheh Mahramiat and temporary marriage are permissible after puberty, recommending the act to their followers. However, a clergy like Ayatollah Sanei, considers temporary marriage as something related to special time and conditions of the battle at the beginning of Islam, saying that the marriage is a factor for family collapse in today’s society. Therefore, people practice temporary marriage due to the economic, sexual, and emotional needs people have. They undergo this type of marriage without feeling guilty as they consider it legitimate due to the religious permission. On the other hand, in this study, Sigheh Mahramiat refers to a type of temporary marriage which is practiced by religious traditional families for their teenagers, in order to control their sexual desires.

The data achieved in this study showed that 22.05 of the families believing in Sigheh Mahramiat have strong religious fidelity. Moreover, 73.52% of the families with the experience of Sigheh Mahramiat have average and only 4.41% have lower religious fidelity. The families with strong and average fidelity justified Sigheh Mahramiat citing the religion as a reason. But the families with low fidelity considered this type of marriage as a tool for organizing sexual behaviour of their children, because of traditional norms and the masculine culture and for the purpose of reducing social pressures. Regarding the attitudes of religious scholars, Sigheh Mahramiat is the same as temporary marriage which is practiced among children and teenagers (the Sigheh is practiced for older people as well, but at the present study, the statistical population includes people under the age of 18).  In fact, religious traditional families practice Sigheh Mahramiat as a solution for reducing social pressures imposed by associates and for the purpose of controlling sexual behaviour at the beginning of puberty. However, the practice usually leads to sexual relations and facilitates conditions of child marriage. In other words, these families try to push their children into common legitimate relations at early ages in order to control their sexual desires and to prevent consequences of childish naughtiness.  Religion though providing a ground but at the end there are cultural factors which compelled families to arrange TM for their children.

Child marriage is referred to as early or forced marriage since the children are not given a chance for a prior informed consent for their marriage partners. Family lifestyle and method of social training of children are among basic factors of accepting Sigheh Mahramiat and temporary marriage. Families with the background of Sigheh Mahramiat and temporary marriage internalize the behaviour in their future generations and they practice it as a kind of accepted social behaviour. In this study, 61.18% of participants were families without the background of Sigheh Mahramiat, while 31.81% had families in which this type of marriage was common. In cultures with broad socialism, independence, individualism and self-expression are promoted, while in cultures with narrow socialism, obedience and conformity are deemed as higher values. In religious families, Sigheh Mahramiat is practiced for teenagers by the parents and the children have to obey and conform even if they are not content to the act.  Furthermore, based on the social learning theory, family members learn family norms. Thus, if they see other members of the family practice temporary marriage, they learn it as an accepted norm and easily repeat it when there is an opportunity.

Read more: The Nexus between the Temporary Marriage and Early Child Marriages

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