Page last updated at 21:49 GMT, Tuesday, 2 September 2008 22:49 UK

Iran rejects easing polygamy law

By Hugh Sykes
BBC News, Tehran

Women in Tehran, Iran
The bill would allow a second marriage without the first wife's permission

In Iran, contentious legislation which might have encouraged men to be more polygamous has been sent back to a legal committee for further discussion.

Polygamy is legal in Iran. Men are permitted up to four wives, but only with the permission of the first wife.

In its present form, the proposed Family Support Bill would - if made law - allow a man to marry a second wife without the permission of the first.

Women's rights groups have hailed the move as "a huge victory".

The only condition would be that he is financially capable of supporting both.

Iran's parliament, the Majlis, has sent the bill away for more discussion.

Women's Rights activists are delighted but warn that the bill is still in the system and may reappear.

It is more likely to disappear.

The speaker of the Majlis expressed his reservations about it, and Ayatollah Yusef Sanai, who is a leading source of what is known as "emulation", wrote on his website that a second marriage without the permission of the first wife is "harem, a sin, a religious offence, contrary to the concept of justice prescribed by the Koran."

He also wrote: "I pray that such a decision, that is oppressive to women will not be made into law. God forbid that the Majlis should add another problem to the existing problems of women."

That is remarkable language in a country where there are so-called Guidance Patrols, Gasht-e-Ershad, who are allowed to detain women for showing too much hair, or for having bare feet.

They have official cars, like police cars, and the Ershad patrols may be seen checking women in parks, or as they emerge from metro stations in Tehran.

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