According to a recent article in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Iranian clerics have proposed "Chastity Houses" as a form of legal prostitution:

Prostitution is illegal in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the penalties are severe, ranging from flogging to execution.

But for reasons no one entirely understands, the number of prostitutes on the streets of Iranian cities and towns has grown substantially in recent years, particularly in Tehran and the holy city of Qom, which is a center for pilgrims and domestic tourists.

Prostitutes wear their veils loosely over their heads in a style that passes for risque in this strictly regulated society. With their faces heavily made up, they stand at traffic circles where men driving by can inspect them and make a deal. The women are often young, including many teenagers who have run away from abusive homes.

Based on official figures, there are some 300,000 women who work as prostitutes in Iran. And according to newspapers, the number is steadily rising, despite frequent police crackdowns.

The article continues:

Proponents of the idea argue that it would "eradicate social corruption" by legitimizing sexual relations between the men and women. Under the plan, the couples would register for a temporary marriage under Iran's Shiite religious law code. The code allows a man to marry a woman for a mutually agreed time as short as a few hours or as long as a lifetime by reciting a verse from the Koran.

The temporary marriage license would protect the couple from harassment by authorities and, according to some proposals, it would be accompanied by free contraceptives and health advice. Under religious law, a temporary marriage imposes no obligations on a man unless the union produces a child, who must be recognized as legitimate and can claim a share of any inheritance.

One cleric backing the plan, Ayatollah Mohammed Mousavi Bojnurdi, recently told a newspaper: "We face a real challenge with all these women on the street. Our society is in an emergency situation, so the formation of the chastity houses can be an immediate solution to the problem." He added that the plan "is both realistic and conforms to Sharia [Islamic] law."

Source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Iran: Proposal Debated For Solving Prostitution With 'Chastity Houses', By Charles Recknagel/Azam Gorgin, 7 August 2002

Copyright (c) 2002. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

Other articles:

Muta Marriage, Misyar Marriage, Part-time Marriages (newspaper article)

Further reading: Women in Islam

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