BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Persian Pashto Turkish French
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Middle East  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Sunday, 28 July, 2002, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Iran 'brothel' plan rejected
Iranian women
Plan has run into trouble with women's groups

A controversial plan to set up what are being denounced as licensed brothels in Iran has been rejected by official bodies.


It's a euphemism for the official establishment of houses of corruption

Iranian Women's Social and Cultural Council
The growing problem of prostitution in the country has been the subject of mounting concern, but this attempt to find an Islamic solution was not well received in some quarters.

The detailed plan for the establishment of what are being coyly referred to as "decency houses" was drawn up by the Interior Ministry's deputy for social affairs.

But according to senior police officials, the plan was rejected by the Ministry's own Social Council, having run into opposition from religious quarters and women's groups.

Medical services

The aim of the scheme was to arrange and regulate encounters between men and women who want to have sex but who, for one reason or another, are not ready for full marriage.

Iranian women
Nearly two million Iranian women do not have homes

The idea was that people would sign up at a registration centre, then be referred to a health clinic for medical checks and a free contraceptive service.

An advisory centre would then pair them off, while another would issue a temporary marriage licence under which the man would pay an agreed sum.

The couple would then be directed to specific hotels or guest houses where they could consummate their arrangement without police harassment.

In fact, the police, the judiciary, and religious officials would be involved in the board of trustees running the scheme.

'Licensed prostitution'

The plan was discussed by senior officials and details were published in the press.


Some people believe that talking about such issues is taboo, but they are part of the reality of society, and turning a blind eye will not solve the problem

Iranian Deputy for Social Affairs Ashraf Borujerdi
But women's groups and others reacted angrily, denouncing the scheme as little more than licensed prostitution.

"It's a euphemism for the official establishment of houses of corruption, the normalisation of illegitimate relations, and the destruction of the family," said the Women's Social and Cultural Council.

"If this plan had been approved, it would have been a stigma of shame on the forehead of the Islamic system," said Seyyed Reza Hosseini, acting Social Deputy of the Law Enforcement Forces, who had opposed the proposal.

But he appeared not to rule out submission of a revised scheme.

"In addressing or regulating the issue of street women all Islamic, legal and social aspects should be taken into account, and we would have to carry out expert studies," he said.

Growing problem

The plan was defended by Ashraf Borujerdi, Deputy for Social Affairs at the Interior Ministry, who helped draw it up.

Scene of riot by Iranian women over poverty-stricken conditions in Iran's cities
Poverty has led to increased social unrest in Iran

"Some people believe that talking about such issues is taboo, but they are part of the reality of society, and turning a blind eye will not solve the problem," she said.

Given the furore it has raised, it seems unlikely that the plan will become reality, even if it is amended.

But its motivation was to address the serious problem of street prostitution, which is becoming increasingly common with the worsening economic and social conditions to which some of Iran's population are vulnerable.

Welfare officials say there are at least 300,000 prostitutes working in the country.

Drug abuse and crime are on the increase, and the number of girls running away from home is rising steadily.

Officials say nearly two million women are without homes, and one million lack any kind of social benefits.

'Social protest'

So the reasons for the rise in prostitution are clear - and they are not going to be easily eliminated.

Under Iran's Islamic system, it is possible to take out a temporary marriage licence - known as Sigheh - even for a few hours.

The device is used to cover casual transactions which in many societies would be regarded simply as prostitution.

The authorities have tried to clamp down on prostitution, but with little success.

In many cities, street women ply their trade undeterred.

Not all those entering the profession appear to do so out of desperation.

For some young women, chicly clad and carrying mobile phones, it appears to be a form of social protest.

Welfare officials are concerned that younger and younger girls are being drawn into the practice.

In April, a man convicted of murdering 16 prostitutes in the holy city of Mashhad was hanged.

And this month, it was announced that two members of the Iranian national football squad were given lashes after being caught in a brothel.

See also:

20 Mar 02 | Middle East
28 Jul 01 | Middle East
14 Apr 01 | Middle East
14 Dec 00 | Middle East
17 Oct 00 | Middle East
06 Jul 00 | Middle East
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes