Iranian study finds singles having sex, recommends 'temporary' marriages

Young Iranians are having pre-marital sex – including homosexual relations – in far greater numbers than the regime in Tehran would like to admit, according to a government study which recommends addressing the issue by encouraging the use of "temporary" marriages that may last no longer then the tryst itself.

The 82-page report, issued by Iran’s parliamentary research branch, and compiled from interviews with 142,000 students, found 80 percent of females acknowledged having premarital sex.  The report, exposing the raw statistics of these incidents, has been withdrawn from the government website, although obtained a copy.

Young women are entering romantic relationships as early as middle school and 17 percent of all respondents identified as homosexual.

The report underscores the vast difference between Iranian society and what the regime espouses. In a youth-dominated population of more than 75 million, where two-thirds are under the age of 35, there is a pronounced affinity toward Western lifestyles, including fashion, music and sex.

“Obviously we don’t care what the government says about these things,” said Mahyar, a business student living in Tehran who only gave her first name. “We do what we want, especially when it’s in the bedroom. It’s no one’s business.

“It’s long proven to the world and to our own leaders here that we won’t be forced into their type of lifestyle.”

The economy can also be blamed for Iran’s loosening sexual attitudes. With U.S.-led sanctions ravaging the economy, it has been difficult for men of meager means to marry. This has pushed back the marriage age significantly but has not diminished the urges.

To get around societal boundaries that prohibit having a girlfriend or boyfriend, or being caught in public with someone of the opposite gender, the report suggests that young people utilize the Islamic Shia practice of a temporary marriage, or sigheh. This will allow both married and non-married men to indulge in their sexual urges.

A sigheh is a temporary arrangement, with mutual consent, that can last anywhere from one meeting to years. According to Sharia Law, a Muslim man can have up to four legal wives, but up to 99 of the temporary marriages.

Despite the study’s findings, virginity is prized in Iranian society. An underground medical procedure in which young women have their hymens surgically repaired is growing in Iran. Although the surgery should be done in a proper medical environment, the "secret" aspect to this surgery has many young Iranian women doing it covertly.

"This is a way for young women to feel that they are still of value,” a Tehran-based therapist said. "And often, it’s the boyfriend who took her virginity, but for the sake of the families, these young girls get the surgery.”