Page last updated at 15:23 GMT, Monday, 1 December 2008

Iran to set up marriage bureaux

Iranian wedding - October 2008
Iranian women complain of a shortage of suitable marriage prospects

The Iranian government is to set up a network of marriage bureaux to help young Iranians find a husband or wife.

The centres aim to advise people on the traditional way of finding a spouse.

Finding a suitable partner is a tricky business as men and women are limited in how much they can meet socially, BBC Tehran correspondent Jon Leyne says.

Most Iranian marriages are not exactly arranged, but relatives often take it on themselves to introduce suitable candidates.

There are even reported to be private matchmaking organisations, effectively dating agencies, some of them run by clerics.

'Unsuitable boys'

The government used the anniversary of the marriage of Ali, the first Shia imam, to Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, to announce a series of measures to boost the institution.

Centres will be established to give advice to young people on how to find a spouse. And banks will issue more loans to pay for weddings.

Sermons in a number of Friday prayers across Iran marked the anniversary by echoing the message of the government and calling for marriage to be made easier.

It seems the government is worried that some young Iranians might be getting into unsuitable relationships, our correspondent says.

And, now that more than 60% percent of university students are female, many Iranian women are complaining they can't find a husband to match their level of education.

But even in the Islamic Republic, young men and women still do manage to exchange phone numbers and even to arrange the occasional illicit rendezvous, our correspondent adds.

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