Tuesday, 17 October, 2000, 07:31 GMT 08:31 UK
Rape and murder on rise in Tehran
Discrimination against women is still rife in Iran
By Iranian affairs analyst Sadeq Saba
New statistics in Iran show an alarming increase in the number
of rapes and murders in the capital Tehran.
A government newspaper, Iran, has reported that in the past six months alone 30 women have been murdered - all of them victims of rape.
The official Iranian news agency, IRNA, has also reported that two men have been hanged in public in the holy city of Qom for abducting and raping underage girls.
The evidence is a huge embarrassment for Iran's Islamic authorities.
The new statistics suggest that in every six days a woman in Tehran is raped and murdered.
The Iran newspaper says that most of the 30 victims in the past six months were between 25 and 35 years old.
The youngest victim was a 15-year-old girl who was apparently gang-raped and her mutilated body was then left on the outskirts of Tehran.
The faces of all the victims were burned to conceal their identity.
The paper said the victims were mostly runaway girls who fell victim to criminal gangs.
It cited police statistics saying the number of runaways in the capital had risen 30% in the past year, with more than 900 girls being arrested. Police say that most of them were 16 to 17-years-old.
Experts told the paper that one of the main reasons for the higher number of female runaways was discrimination against girls in Iranian households.
It is also believed that many girls who take to the streets are victims of violence at home.
The crisis is so acute in Tehran that the authorities have recently established a safe home for runaway girls.
The Iran paper gave no figures about the number of rape victims in other Iranian cities. But Iranian officials have expressed grave concern in recent months over a rapid rise in prostitution and suicide among women.
To regulate prostitution,
Iran ponders brothels
NEW YORK TIMES Wednesday, August 28, 2002 Nazila Fathi
The conservative Iranian newspaper, Afarinesh, recently reported that two government agencies, which were not identified, had proposed legalizing brothels, under the name of "chastity houses" as a way of bringing prostitution under control.
The plan reportedly involved using security forces, the judiciary and religious elders to administer guesthouses where couples would be brought together in a safe and healthy environment. Many politicians, clerics and women's groups denounced the reported proposal, and the government denied the plan was in the works.
The notion of such places is borrowed from the practice of
temporary marriage, or sigheh, which is permitted in the Shiite
branch of Islam predominating in Iran. Such marriages can last
for a few minutes or 99 years, and are especially recommended
for widows who need financial support.
Sigheh allows a couple to marry for an agreed-upon period of time by reciting a verse from the Koran. The oral contract does not need to be registered and the verse can be read by anyone. Women normally receive money for entering the contract.
Temporary marriage received public support in the early 1990's, particularly from President Hashemi Rafsanjani, as a way to channel young people's sexual urges under Iran's strict sexual segregation.
Two decades after its Islamic revolution - when prostitution became punishable by lashing - Iran estimates about 300,000 prostitutes work on the streets of Tehran, which has a population of 12 million. According to the Health Ministry, HIV in the past had been transmitted primarily by sharing contaminated needles, but now it is increasingly being spread by sex.
Most stories of prostitutes involve poverty, drug addiction and abusive families. Teenage runaways interviewed this month by Zanan, a feminist magazine, said they considered prostitution a safe haven despite the severe penalties. One said she had twice been given lashings but found them more bearable than the way her addicted father had treated her.
Another said she did not know much about AIDS but would never go to a "chastity house" even if it would guarantee that her partner was healthy.
"How can I trust a government that never cared about women like me?"