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.[1]


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.[2][3] In 2002, the Iranian newspaper Entekhab estimated that there were close to 85,000 prostitutes in Tehran alone.[4] Prostitution is rampant in Tehran; "the streets are full of working girls ... part of the landscape, blending in with everything else."[5]

Police raids have also exposed child prostitution rings.[6] 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." [7]

Before the Iranian 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.[8] Establishing brothels is also a criminal act, subject to 1–10 years imprisonment, if not subject to death sentence.[9]

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".[10] In 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary 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.[11]

Prostitution scandal[edit]

In 2008, General Reza Zarei, the Tehran police chief, was arrested in a brothel with six prostitutes.[12] His arrest caused embarrassment for the government of President Ahmadinejad because Zarei was in charge of vice in Tehran.[12] The prosecutor in the case remarked that Zarei exploited his office to profit materially from prostitution.[12]

Nikah mut‘ah or Sigheh[edit]

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 3days to 99 years (although some Islamic scholars (mujtahids), say that it is impossible to marry a person, as temporary marriage, for a period of time that is usually longer than the average life-time of a person);[13] 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.[14][15] Religious people argue that Islamic temporary marriage is different from prostitution for a couple of reasons, including the necessity of iddah in case the couple have sexual intercourse. It means that if a woman marries a man in this way and has sex, she has to wait for a certain period of time before marrying again and therefore, a woman cannot marry more than a limited number of times in a year. [16][17][18][19][20][21]

Special Healthcare and Screening Centers[edit]

On July 15, 2016, Ali Akbar Sayyari, the healthcare affairs' Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education of Iran, informed the public about improving and/or establishing (depending on the area and place in the country) 'drop-in centers' and 'voluntary counseling and testing' centers for the female sex workers. These centers provide disease prevention tools and examine the sex workers for STDs. They also provide counselling.[22]

2016 Estimation[edit]

According to Farahnaz Salimi, head of Aaftaab Society, an NGO for social damages controlling and prevention, there are about 10,000 female sex workers in Tehran. Among these sex workers, there are married women or female clerks, too. According to her reports, the average price of having sex with sex workers is 600,000 rials (60,000 tomans which is about 16.66 USD). The price can be as high as some hundred thousand tomans (= some million rials) for a night. The lowest price is 50,000 rials (= 5,000 tomans).[23][24] (Price information is based on currency exchange rates of autumn 2016).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sex Work Law - Countries". Sexuality, Poverty and Law. Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  2. ^ "Shorn of dignity and equality". The Economist. 2003-10-16. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  3. ^ "Drugs and prostitution 'soar' in Iran". BBC. 2000-07-06. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  4. ^ Lapidos, Juliet (2008-04-23). "How to Spot a Persian Prostitute". Slate. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  5. ^ Larry Getlan (August 30, 2014). "Inside modern Iran, where porn and prostitution are rampant". New York Post. 
  6. ^ "Iran in focus". Iran Focus. 2005-04-11. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  7. ^ "Rise in Iranian Prostitution Blamed on Strict Sex Rules, Economy". The Body. 2002-09-16. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  8. ^ Fath, Nazila (2002-08-28). "To Regulate Prostitution, Iran Ponders Brothels". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  9. ^ ZAHARIE, Cristian Giuseppe. "THE LEGAL REGIME OF PROSTITUTION ON THE MUSLIM COUNTRIES" (PDF). Romanian-American University. Retrieved 14 April 2018. 
  10. ^ "Trafficking in Persons Report". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. U.S. Department of State. 2009-02-25. Retrieved 20 December 2009. 
  11. ^ Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labor (2010). "Trafficking in Persons Report 2010". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 6 January 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c "Prostitute Scandal Rattles Tehran Government". Spiegel Online International. April 28, 2008. Retrieved January 6, 2011. 
  13. ^ Resaaleye Daneshjouyi; Porsesh-ha va Pasokh-ha. Motaabeghe Nazar-e 10 Tan az Maraaje'e Ezaam. رساله دانشجویی؛ پرسش ها و پاسخ ها. مطابق نظر ده تن از مراجع عظام. Ma'aaref Publication. Student's Risalah. Questions and Answers. Compatible with the Fatwa of Ten People of Marja's. ISBN 978-964-531-307-2. p 223.
  14. ^ 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."
  15. ^ 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.'"
  16. ^ Temporary Marriage in Islam Part 6: Similarities and Differences of Mut’a and Regular Marriage | A Shi'ite Encyclopedia | Books on Islam and Muslims | Permanent archived link.
  17. ^ "Iddah Of Mutah". 
  18. ^ "Marriage » Mut'ah (temporary marriage) - Islamic Laws - The Official Website of the Office of His Eminence Al-Sayyid Ali Al-Husseini Al-Sistani". 
  19. ^ "The Rules in Matrimony and Marriage". 
  20. ^ "How is Mutah different from prostitution (from a non-Muslim point of view)?". 
  21. ^ "Marriage". 
  22. ^ ایجاد مراکز بهداشتی برای زنان روسپی. Islamic Republic of Iran News Network. Permanent Archived Link. Retrieved and Archived on July 15, 2016. Translation of the Title: Creating Healthcare Centers for Female Sex Workers. Quoted from IRNA.
  23. ^ ۱۰ هزار «تن فروش» در تهران از متأهل تا کارمند/ارتباط جنسی برای عبور از بوروکراسی اداری. Permanent Archived Link. Permanent Archived Link at WebCite. Retrieved and archived on August 3, 2016.
  24. ^ Radio Zamaneh. August 3, 2016.