Abuse / Slavery / Sodomy

(Documentary) Iran: Prostitution Behind the Veil


This is an extremely sad situation for thousands of women in Muslim countries: prostitution. It’s not like their job options are many and available if they become widows or their husbands have divorced them, or abandoned them or is abusive to them. Having nowhere to keep the children (again a sign of abandonment), they bring the children with them during ‘work hours’.

Minna and Fariba are neighbours and good friends. They support one another. Both have to live under the pervasive curtailment of women’s rights and the double standards of today’s Iranian society. They make a living walking the streets looking for men. They have a choice between leaving their small children at home alone or bringing them along when they have sex with men.

The film is a sympathetic portrait of the two women, exploring their day-to-day life and the workings of prostitution in a country that bans it and prosecutes adulterers, sometimes with the penalty of capital punishment.

Many of the clients find a way to buy sex and still comply with Muslim law: they marry the women in what is called ‘Sighe’, a temporary marriage sanctioned in Shia Islam. Sighe can last from two hours up to 99 years. Both Minna and Fariba enter into Sighe with clients, and Fariba is in a Sighe marriage with a neighbour, Habib, that lasts six months. Giving his perspective on temporary marriage, Habib says that Sighe is a way to help poor women, it is an act of mercy in the name of Allah.

The film follows the two women for more than a year. It describes their middle-class backgrounds and their submission to treacherous men and drugs. We see how Fariba manages to quit drugs and prostitution, only to find herself temporarily married to a man who will not let her leave the house.

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