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Sunday, April 14, 2024

‘Legalized Prostitution’ aka sigeh or nikah mut’ah inside Iranian mosques in the West

In Sweden, Iranian protesters held a rally outside the Imam Ali Mosque, north of Stockholm, demanding closure of the center accusing it as being used as an espionage nest of the Islamic Republic. The protesters paid homage to the victims killed by the Islamic Republic, lighting candles, and placing flowers next to their photos.

About two million of Sweden’s population is made up of immigrants with different religions, and the government provides financial assistance to their religious centers, including the Imam Ali Mosque in Stockholm, affiliated to the Islamic Republic.

However, Iranians living in Sweden, human rights and political activists claim Imam Ali Mosque is not a place of worship, but a “nest of espionage for the Islamic Republic”.

In the past year, Swedish media published numerous reports about Imam Ali and other mosques, including in Malmö, saying that temporary marriages are practiced in these mosques, calling it “legal prostitution” or “Islamic prostitution”.

Some Swedish parliamentarians have also called for the closure of such places because, according to them, these mosques, specifically the Imam Ali Mosque, receive funding from non-democratic governments such as the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In the past weeks, Iranians also gathered in front of the Islamic Center in Frankfurt and Hamburg, calling them dens of Islamic Republic espionage and demanding their closure.

In the meantime, Iranians living in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin, Copenhagen, Auckland, etc., held gatherings on Saturday to express support for the Iranian people’s uprising against the Islamic Republic.

Prostitution inside Iranian mosques in the West

In a May 2022 report it was revealed, Shia Muslim imams around Sweden ordain women who are bought by men who want casual sex. Often the imams charge. The purpose of the so-called pleasure marriages is to make the sex halal, i.e. permitted according to Shiite Islam. Because of the disclosure, the Islamic Shia Association in Sweden is now freezing the membership of several of its congregations.

If I had been the head of the preliminary investigation, I would probably have drawn up a report on human trafficking, says Petra Stenkula, police chief in Malmö.

Under Shiite religious practice, temporary marriage or Mu’tah is called “marriage of pleasure”. A fixed-term marriage for payment, which can last for a month, a week – or just an hour. When the time runs out, the marriage is over. A Shia practice that some religious leaders claim is backed by the Koran. Others condemn it and call it prostitution in the name of religion.

Several women who tell about their own experiences and that Shia Muslim leaders in Sweden charge money to carry out the weddings. Phenomenon of temporary “marriages of pleasure” does not only occur among Shia Muslims in Sweden. Already in 2019, the British television channel BBC exposed religious sex trafficking in Iraq where Shia Muslim leaders exploited children and exposed women to men who want “marriage of pleasure”.

Temporary marriage and sex tourism in Iran

Prostitution under the garb on Shi’ite religious rule named Mut’ah or Sigheh has been increasing year-on-year in Iran. According to the rules, any male is allowed to marry a female for a pre-determined period of time, have sexual relations with her, and leave her without any legal or religious consequences. Although Iranian mullahs see Sigheh as a tool of allowing country’s ever-flourishing sex tourism industry to grow further, critics say, it is actually pushing hundreds of thousands of poverty-affected families in sending their female members towards prostitution using Sigheh as a loophole of avoiding legal consequences.

Although there is almost no research or data on this legalized form of prostitution and sexual exploitation, according to media reports, influential leader of the ruling regime as well as members of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are basically owning and controlling the sex tourism industry by forcing hundreds of women into sex trade every year.

Iran’s Supreme Council for the Cultural Revolution defined its conception of chastity in an article published on its website said: “Chastity helps men to prevent lust … Chastity is internal and prevents external behaviors such as illegitimate relationships, illegitimate children, abortion, and street harassment. In fact, observing boundaries in human relations is called chastity, so that individual feelings and desires, both sexual and non-sexual, do not transcend the boundaries of morality and justice”.

Some proponents of Sigheh argue that the practice encourages chastity because it ensures that sexual relations occur within the confines of marriage. Another argument is that many men have no other possible source for sexual companionship other than through a paid arrangement. This includes single men, men who travel for extended periods, and those whose wives have long-term illnesses.

According to Iranian Civil Law, article 1075, Sigheh is considered legal. It says, men/boys aged 15 and older and women/girls aged 13 and older can enter into such a relationship [sexual relationship]. Usually, according to Iranian tradition, virgin girls must obtain permission from their father to marry permanently or temporarily, but according to the Iranian Civil Law Articles 1043 and 1044, girls can obtain permission to become a Sigheh wife by simply identifying their husband-to-be by name and providing details about their relationship such as the value of the mehrieh (dowry) and proposed length of the marriage.

Sigheh can last for one hour, a few days, a few months or longer. The couple can sever this relationship without a legal divorce according to Iranian Civil Law Article 1113. A contract for a Sigheh does not make the man responsible for financially supporting the woman. She has no right to inheritance or similar rights that women have in a permanent marriage.

According to a report from the US Department of State, “the Government of Iran does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.” In 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton downgraded Iran from Tier 2 to Tier 3 in the Department of State’s annual report on human trafficking, indicating that Iran was making no significant effort to combat the problem.

Despite the fact that prostitution is illegal, one study estimated that there are approximately 230,000 female sex workers in Iranian urban settings. The demand for commercial sex is most prevalent in large urban centers, including the major pilgrimage sites of Qom and Mashhad. It is believed that traffickers may exploit children as young as 10.

Poverty and a worsening economy are pushing Iranian women into prostitution. An estimated 50 percent of female sex workers in Iran are married women. Traffickers often force these women into remaining prostitutes, making them vulnerable to execution for adultery. It is reported that Iranian, Iraqi, Saudi, Bahraini, and Lebanese women in these locations are highly vulnerable to trafficking.

The website of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution states, “Chastity and [wearing the] hijab are intertwined and each is a prerequisite for the other. With planning by the government to create a culture of modesty, a clean society can be achieved.” Thus, the principle of chastity can be used to justify legalized prostitution as well as modesty in women’s attire.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline.)

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and editor of Weekly Blitz. Follow him on Twitter @Salah_Shoaib

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