Prostitution in Iran

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Prostitution in Iran is illegal, and incurs various punishments ranging from fines and jail terms to execution for repeat offenders.


The exact number of prostitutes working in Iran is unknown. However, prostitutes are visible on some street corners of the major cities. Many of them are runaways from poor and broken homes. [1][2] In 2002, the Iranian newspaper Entekhab estimated that there were close to 85,000 prostitutes in Tehran alone.[3] Prostitution is rampant in Tehran; "the streets are full of working girls ... part of the landscape, blending in with everything else."[4]

Police raids have also exposed child prostitution rings.[5] An Iranian psychiatrist, Mahdis Kamkar, believes the rise in prostitution is a symptom of broader social problems, among them "troubled families, divorce, identity crises and social contradictions." [6]

Before the Islamic revolution in 1979, prostitutes were confined to separate neighborhoods such as Shahr-e-no in Tehran. The new religious government demolished the district and punished prostitution with lashing.[7] Establishing brothels is also a criminal act, subject to 1–10 years imprisonment.[citation needed]

U.S. assessment[edit]

In 2007, the United States State Department placed Iran as a "Tier 2" in its annual Trafficking in Persons reports, stating that "it does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so".[8] In 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton downgraded Iran to "Tier 3", noting that the country makes no significant effort to solve trafficking problems, mainly in relation to prostitution and forced labor.[9]

Prostitution scandal[edit]

In 2008, General Reza Zarei, the Tehran police chief, was arrested in a brothel with six prostitutes.[10] His arrest caused embarrassment for the government of President Ahmadinejad because Zarei was in charge of vice in Tehran.[10] The prosecutor in the case remarked that Zarei exploited his office to profit materially from prostitution.[10]

Nikah mut‘ah or Sigheh[edit]

See also: Women in Iran

While prostitution is illegal in Iran, the Shiah institution of Nikah mut‘ah (temporary marriage, usually called Sigheh in Iran) allows contractual short-term relations between both sexes. Usually, a dowry is given to the temporary wife. Sigheh can last from 15 minutes to 99 years; it expires automatically without divorce. According to a number of scholars and Iranians, Sigheh is being misused as a legal cover for prostitution in Iran.[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Shorn of dignity and equality". The Economist. 2003-10-16. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  2. ^ "Drugs and prostitution 'soar' in Iran". BBC. 2000-07-06. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  3. ^ Lapidos, Juliet (2008-04-23). "How to Spot a Persian Prostitute". Slate. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  4. ^ Larry Getlan (August 30, 2014). "Inside modern Iran, where porn and prostitution are rampant". New York Post. 
  5. ^ "Iran in focus". Iran Focus. 2005-04-11. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  6. ^ "Rise in Iranian Prostitution Blamed on Strict Sex Rules, Economy". The Body. 2002-09-16. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  7. ^ Fath, Nazila (2002-08-28). "To Regulate Prostitution, Iran Ponders Brothels". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  8. ^ "Trafficking in Persons Report". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. U.S. Department of State. 2009-02-25. Retrieved 20 December 2009. 
  9. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2010). "Trafficking in Persons Report 2010". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 6 January 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c "Prostitute Scandal Rattles Tehran Government". Spiegel Online International. April 28, 2008. Retrieved January 6, 2011. 
  11. ^ Andreeva, Elena (2007). Russia and Iran in the great game: travelogues and Orientalism. Routledge studies in Middle Eastern history. 8. Psychology Press. pp. 162–163. ISBN 0415771536. "Most of the travelers describe the Shi'i institution of temporary marriage (sigheh) as 'legalized profligacy' and hardly distinguish between temporary marriage and prostitution."
  12. ^ Haeri, Shahla (1989). Law of desire: temporary marriage in Shi'i Iran. Contemporary issues in the Middle East. Syracuse University Press. p. x. ISBN 0815624832. "Outside of the religious establishment and the ongoing disputes between Shi'i and Sunni scholars, the attitude toward temporary marriage has been primarily one of ambivalence and disdain. Before the revolution of 1979, the secular Iranian middle classes dismissed temporary marriage as a form of prostitution that had been legitimized by the religious establishment, who, to use a popular Persian expression, 'put a religious hat on it.'"