I’ve been intrigued by the practice of what is effectively legalized and religiously sanctioned prostitution in Iran since I heard about it a couple of years ago and this article is the most in-depth look at it that I’ve read. It’s technically called temporary marriage but it’s clearly prostitution. The temporary marriage contract lasts for a predefined duration, from a matter of minutes to 99 years and there is an explicit provision for the woman to be compensated by the male in some way, with the precise terms being negotiated between the two parties.
What’s interesting is that like normal marriages, any children conceived under the temporary marriage contract are considered legitimate and may inherit the father’s property, but the woman is not required to obey the man as traditionally required under Islam, except in sexual matters. These actually sound like reasonable rules to protect the woman and provide for a measure of security for any children that might result.
In fact, the whole thing is refreshingly honest and straightforward. The religious authorities acknowledge that the primary purpose of such contracts is pleasure for the men and money for the women. They even insist that it be proudly branded as Islamic so that critics cannot say that Islam is blind to the physical needs of men. They also see it as a useful way for women, particularly widows, to earn money to support children who might otherwise go uncared for.
At the same time, the authorities remain puritanically strict against liaisons between men and women that are not sanctioned under Islam. Once you have the paper contract, issued and approved by the proper religious officials, everything is okay, but without it, the liaison is sinful and will be zealously prosecuted in Iran. It’s a weird disconnect.