Prostitution, Under-Age Marriages and Addiction in Iran

Prostitution in Iran starts from the age of 12, with 25% of these being students (could be elementary and high school), 20% university/college students, 10% freelance, 7-8% office staff. According to The Welfare Organization, AIDS Research Center in Iran, a staggering 50% of Iran’s prostitutes are housewives (and most of them in their twenties). Prostitution has penetrated the fabric of the family. Daughters follow the footsteps of their mothers.

27-year-old women called ‘Khaleh’ become pimps and run the business. Mostly run-away girls from other cities (age 13-30) work for them. These girls are paid a quarter of what khale’s receive. In early 2010’s, Iran’s Head of Sociology said the age for prostitution has decreased to 8-10 years. The young people of Iran are being robbed.

These modern-day victims run their ‘business’ online. Even as far back as 13 years ago, Sociologist Zhaleh Shaditalab confirmed that 42% of these women find their clients through social media, 25% through phone, and only 22% on the street.

Even though prostitution is formally illegal in Iran, there are no real penalties for it. Officially speaking, in Article 638 of the Islamic Penal Code, whenever a person publicly pretends to commit a haram act in public places, in addition to the punishment, he will be sentenced to imprisonment from 10 days to 2 months or up to 74 lashes. The death penalty can also be imposed for prostitution if the woman in question is married. In such cases the client may also be executed.

Yet despite this risk, the sex trade flourishes on the streets of Iran’s major cities. Those in this business have a different view of the law and the legislator. They say court Judges rule according to personal taste so there is no proper criminal balance between the seller and the customer. They claim that they are unseen. In worst cases they pay off the officers.

But there is a legalized form of abuse in Iran too: the temporary marriage. According to the law, a man can take a woman (or girl) to a religious leader, and ask for a blessing on his ‘temporary’ marriage. This marriage can be as short as an hour, or perhaps a week. Once his temporary marriage (known as Sighe) is blessed, he can have relations with the girl or woman and all within legal parameters. There are few practical limitations on how old the girl has to be.

But prostitution is not the only way young girls face sexual trauma and abuse in Iran. According to Iran Wire, more than 1 million female child marriages have been registered in Iran in the last eight years. This includes 13,500 with girls younger than 13. In all likelihood the real number is far higher as many happen off the books. This accounts for one fifth of all marriages in Iran!

Iran’s Civil Registration Organization’s reported that in 2021, the number of marriages involving girls under the age of 18 increased by 9,000 in the year, taking it to 118,000 known cases. The ratio of child to total marriages is now 21.15 percent (the highest since 2014). The highest number of child marriages recorded in Iran was in 2014, with nearly 170,000 known cases (more than one third of all marriages registered that year). Hundreds of babies are born to mothers aged 10-14 each year.

The highest rate of child marriage in the country is in the North Khorasan province where several thousand marriages of girls have been registered just in the last few years – some as young as 10 years old.

Many of Iran’s victims of sexual abuse end up in drug addiction. This is very common. Iran has a serious drug problem. Official statistics for the number addicted to drugs vary widely. We estimate 4.4 million though we expect the real figure is higher. It is believed that 35-40% of all opiates produced in Afghanistan are trafficked to Iran.

Is it any wonder that women in Iran have alarmingly high rates of addiction, overdose, depression, and suicide.

Pray for Iranians effected by the traumas of abuse and addiction. Pray for healing and hope. Pray for a way out. Pray for the ministry of Pearl of Persia as it focuses on reaching this sector of society.

Published on
3 November 2022
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