Under Islam, a woman can get married for an hour. The "sigheh" is a shi'a solution to a physical need. In Iran, it is an anomaly - a sexual freedom sanctioned by religion but taboo in societyby Wendell Steavenson / October 20, 2002 / Leave a comment
On my first day in the Islamic Republic of Iran, all I could think about was my hijab, the Islamic covering which I was required to wear as a matter of law whenever I was in a public space. My headscarf itched under my chin; my coat felt tight under my arms. I worried about the inch of hair that was showing; I reached up constantly to adjust it, smoothing, checking. I felt oppressed. I saw how men walked and worked, wearing trousers and shirts just as they liked. Watching the women, I noted the variations of hijab: trousered legs and thigh-length jackets, sheer flowered headscarves, blue headcoverings with a hole for the face that came down to the breast bone, knee-length manteaus and black chadors-tents of sheer rayon that fell from the forehead in a mass of folds to the ankle. They seemed difficult to control. The women who wore them were constantly hitching a fold under an arm, grasping a hem with their fingers, drawing it close in around the eyebrows.
Then, after a few days, I got used to the headscarf. I stopped fidgeting and felt normal. As Iranian women often reminded me, “Hijab! It’s nothing. In Iran, we have much more important battles to fight.”
In Iran, two women are the equivalent to one man as witnesses in a court of law. A woman must have permission from her husband if she wants to leave the country. Men can take up to four wives, but a woman must have her father’s permission to marry. Men are granted divorces relatively easily; a woman has to prove abandonment, addiction or impotence. After a divorce, women have custody of boys only until the age of two and girls until they are seven.
However, Iran is also a country where 62 per cent of university students are women, where women work in ministries, schools and hospitals, where they can run their own businesses, drive and vote. There are several female MPs and a female minister of the environment. Iran is a country where, professionally, women can do almost anything.
I was new and confused, a western woman trying to unravel law from religion from culture. I came up with a Venn diagram of three intersecting circles: one for the Islamic Republic and the laws of the mullahs, one for the Koran and its directives from the prophet Muhammad, and…