Iran faces taboo topic of prostitution

Feb 12, 2006 at 09:08 PM

Iran faces taboo topic of prostitution – The Independent (December 13, 2002) – By Sapa-DPA

Tehran – When the Islamic system was created in Iran in 1979, prostitution topped the list of taboo subjects. But today the situation cannot be ignored as prostitution is rapidly on the rise.

“Our main concern is that the trend is increasing dramatically,” Jamileh Kadivar, MP and member of the  women’s faction in parliament said on the website Women in Iran.

The former red-light district in the New City in central Tehran was turned into a park by the Islamic administration in an attempt to put an end to the business but family problems stemming from unemployment, drug abuse and a lack of social support gradually forced women back to prostitution.

According to official figures from the Social Welfare Organisation, more than 1,7 million women and girls, almost six percent of the female population, ran away from home, became homeless and many of them eventually turned to prostitution.

‘My mother knows, of course, where the money comes from’ “If the economic management had done its job properly, we would have never faced such a dilemma” Kadivar said.

A 23-year-old call-girl in Tehran says she found herself in a desperate situation. Her father was an addict and there was constant physical abuse in the home. “With no money, no education, no opportunity for marriage what else shall I do for surviving?” she said.

Turning to prostitution, Taraneh managed to rent a small flat in eastern Teheran with her mother and two younger sisters and she says she works to provide a decent life for them. Her father is back in his home province where her grandmother is trying to help him beat his addiction.

“My mother knows, of course, where the money comes from but both of us try to ignore it and always talk about an imaginary company where I work. My sisters however believe in the fairy tale of the company,” she said.

How can a family with no man at its side cover the high life expenses?’ Her monthly income is exceeds 10 million rials (about R50 000), about five times that of the average family. She charges her customers, who she insists come from good backgrounds, between 50 000 to 120 000 rials.

“We are saving money so that I can stop all this when I am 30, when my sisters will have finished school and can help the family financially,” she said.

According to unconfirmed statistics, there are about 30 000 to 500 000 prostitutes in Iran. Prostitutes, pimps and customers are arrested on a regular basis but the police and judiciary have nowhere to accommodate the arrested prostitutes.

With up to 30 000 people HIV positive in Iran, a plan to supervise prostitution to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases was mooted by the social department of the interior ministry but the plan sparked harsh protests within the conservative clergy and was doomed to failure.

According to the plan, the brothels were supposed to be turned to “morality houses” and prostitution was to be legitimised in the form of a temporary marriage which is a traditional religious custom in Iran under which unmarried or divorced women can have a legitimate sexual affair with men.

Kadivar said that the women faction in the parliament plans first to distinguish between prostitutes who are just immoral and those forced to sell their bodies The first category will be confronted but the second provided with support through the social welfare organisation.

But Taraneh counters, “the efforts by some of the female officials might even be based on good will but how can a family with no man at its side cover the high life expenses even with governmental aids”.  “And I further believe that at least in Iran there are voluntary prostitutes and almost all of them prefer to have a decent life and I personally pray to God every night to get out of this mud,” she added.


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