Is she a prostitute? Or just a "temporary wife"?

In Iran, a draconian "Family Protection Act" has been shelved ... for now.

Published September 4, 2008 12:00AM (EDT)

Some quasi-good news from Iran: According to the Los Angeles Times, Iran's parliament decided to shelve the so-called Family Protection Bill, which was proposed by conservative lawmakers in July and protested by activists for women's rights.

What, exactly, would this family protection have entailed? I'll give you a hint: It wouldn't have protected families. Instead, says the Times, the proposed legislation would have required divorced women to pay taxes on their alimony and, more disturbingly, would have "allowed husbands to get religiously sanctioned 'temporary' marriages or take additional wives without the consent of their first spouses." (These temporary unions are called "sigheh" in Persian, can last as little as 30 minutes, are popular with "male travelers or seminary students who find themselves far from their wives for long periods," and are criticized by many as a way for men to skirt laws against prostitution.) Thankfully, for the moment at least, it's not going to happen.

So what's the bad news (besides, of course, the fact that such legislation would be proposed at all)? First, there's no guarantee that the legislation will permanently remain shelved. As Iranian women's rights activist Farnaz Saifi told the Times, "It's a victory, but it's a temporary victory." And secondly, on Tuesday, the day after the legislation was set aside, a court sentenced four of the opposition group leaders to six months of jail. Plus, last week another women's rights activist, Zeinab Bayzeydi, was sentenced to four years. According to the Times, all five of the women were part of an international campaign called "One Million Signatures" that hopes to "amass petitions demanding women's rights in the Islamic Republic."

My prediction: If you can get arrested just for talking about your rights, it's going to take a while before you get them.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

MORE FROM Catherine Price

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Broadsheet Iran Love And Sex Middle East