Marriage and Divorce Under Iranian Family Law
Ehsan Zar Rokh
University of Tehran
July 15, 2011
The selection of a marriage partner is normally determined by customary preference, economic circumstances, and geographic considerations. Marriage arrangements in villages and among the lower and traditional middle classes of urban areas tend to follow traditional patterns. When a young man is judged ready for marriage, his parents will visit the parents of a girl whom they believe to be a suitable match. In many cases, the man will have already expressed an interest in the girl and have asked his parents to begin these formalities. If the girl's parents show similar interest in the union, the conversation quickly turns to money. There must be an agreement on the amount of the bride-price that will be given to the bride's family at the time of marriage. In principle this payment is supposed to compensate the girl's family for her loss, but in practice it is used primarily to finance the cost of the wedding. The exact sum varies according to the wealth, social position, and degree of kinship of the two families.
Once the two families have agreed to the marriage, the prospective bride and groom are considered engaged. The courtship period now commences and may extend for a year or more, although generally the engagement lasts less than twelve months. The actual wedding involves a marriage ceremony and a public celebration. The ceremony is the signing of a marriage contract in the presence of a mullah. One significant feature of the marriage contract is the mahriyeh, a stipulated sum that the groom gives to his new bride. The mahriyeh usually is not paid at the time of the marriage, especially in marriages between cousins. The contract notes that it is to be paid, however, in the event of divorce or, in case of the husband's death, to be deducted from his estate before the inheritance is divided according to religious law. If the mahriyeh is waived, as sometimes happens in urban areas, this too must be stipulated in the marriage contract. Polygyny in Iran is regulated by Islamic custom, which permits a man to have as many as four wives simultaneously, provided that he treats them equally. Shia Islam, unlike Sunni Islam, also recognizes a special form of temporary marriage called muta. In a muta marriage, the man and woman sign a contract agreeing to live together as husband and wife for a specified time, which can be as brief as several hours or as long as ninety-nine years. There is no limit on the number of muta marriages that a man may contract. Generally marriages in Islamic law have four important purposes: 1. to restrain sexual passion. 2. The ordering of domestic life. 3. The care and responsibility towards children. 4. The expansion of the family. Divorce in Iran historically has been easier for a man to obtain than for a woman. Men could exercise the right of repudiation of wives according to the guidelines of Islamic law. Women were permitted to leave their husbands on narrowly defined grounds, such as insanity or impotence. Legislation was passed permitting women to initiate divorce proceedings in certain limited circumstances. I'm trying to have empirical study about marriage and divorce in Iranian society and law.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 51
Keywords: marriage, divorce, iranian law, family law
JEL Classification: K10, K39working papers series
Date posted: July 15, 2011 ; Last revised: November 19, 2011
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