Prostitution is illegal in Iran, and incurs various punishments ranging from fines and jail terms to execution for repeat offenders.[1]


The exact number of prostitutes working in Iran is unknown, but in 2017 it was estimated that there were 228,700 prostitutes in Iran and that the number was on the rise.[2]

Prostitutes are visible on some street corners of the major cities. Many of them are runaways from poor and broken homes.[3][4] In 2002, the moderate Iranian newspaper Entekhab estimated that there were close to 85,000 prostitutes in Tehran alone.[5] Prostitution is rampant in Tehran; "the streets are full of working girls ... part of the landscape, blending in with everything else."[6]

Police raids have also exposed child prostitution rings.[7] An Iranian psychiatrist, Mahdis Kamkar, believes the rise in prostitution is a symptom of broader social problems, among them "troubled families, divorce, identity crises and social contradictions."[8]

Before the Iranian Revolution in 1979, prostitutes were confined to separate neighborhoods such as Shahr-e No in Tehran. The new religious government demolished the district and punished prostitution with lashing.[9] Establishing brothels is also a criminal act, subject to 1–10 years imprisonment, if not subject to death sentence.[10]

Prostitution scandal

In 2008, General Reza Zarei, the Tehran police chief, was arrested in a brothel with six prostitutes.[11] His arrest caused embarrassment for the government of President Ahmadinejad because Zarei was in charge of vice in Tehran.[11] The prosecutor in the case remarked that Zarei exploited his office to profit materially from prostitution.[11]

Nikah mut‘ah or Sigheh

Main article: Nikah mut‘ah

See also: Women in Iran

While prostitution is illegal in Iran, the Shiah institution of Nikah mut‘ah (temporary marriage, usually called Sigheh in Iran) allows contractual short-term relations between both sexes. Usually, a dowry is given to the temporary wife. Sigheh can last from 3days to 99 years (although some Islamic scholars (mujtahids), say that it is impossible to marry a person, as temporary marriage, for a period of time that is usually longer than the average life-time of a person);[12] it expires automatically without divorce. According to a number of scholars and Iranians, Sigheh is being misused as a legal cover for prostitution in Iran.[13][14] Religious people argue that Islamic temporary marriage is different from prostitution for a couple of reasons, including the necessity of iddah in case the couple have sexual intercourse. It means that if a woman marries a man in this way and has sex, she has to wait for a certain period of time before marrying again and therefore, a woman cannot marry more than a limited number of times in a year.[15][16][17][18][19][20] It has been reported that the number of temporary marriages entered into is on the increase.[21]

Special Healthcare and Screening Centers

On 15 July 2016, Ali Akbar Sayyari, the healthcare affairs' Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education of Iran, informed the public about improving and/or establishing (depending on the area and place in the country) 'drop-in centers' and 'voluntary counseling and testing' centers for the female sex workers. These centers provide disease prevention tools and examine the sex workers for STDs. They also provide counselling.[22]

2016 Estimation

According to Farahnaz Salimi, head of Aaftaab Society, an NGO for social damages controlling and prevention, there are about 10,000 female sex workers in Tehran. Among these sex workers, there are married women or female clerks, too. According to her reports, the average price of having sex with sex workers is 600,000 rials (60,000 tomans which is about US$14.28). The price can be as high as some hundred thousand tomans (= some million rials) for a night. The lowest price is 50,000 rials (= 5,000 tomans).[23][24] (Price information is based on currency exchange rates of spring 2016).

Sex trafficking

See also: Human trafficking in Iran

Iran is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking. Organized groups reportedly subject Iranian women, boys, and girls to sex trafficking in Iran, Afghanistan, the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR), Pakistan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Europe. Some Iranian women, who seek employment to support their families in Iran, are vulnerable to sex trafficking. Iranian girls between the ages of 13 and 17 are targeted by traffickers for sale abroad; younger girls may be forced into domestic service until their traffickers consider them old enough to be subjected to child sex trafficking. In 2016, there was a reported increase in young Iranian women in prostitution in Dubai; some of these women may be trafficking victims. From 2009 to 2015, the transport of girls from and through Iran en route to other Persian Gulf states for sexual exploitation reportedly increased. Iranian girls were subjected to sex trafficking in brothels in the IKR, especially Sulaimaniya; in some cases this exploitation was facilitated by Iranian trafficking networks. In 2015, the media reported Kurdistan Regional Government officials were among the clients of these brothels. In Tehran, Tabriz, and Astara, the number of teenage girls exploited in sex trafficking reportedly continues to increase. Afghan migrants and refugees, including children, are highly vulnerable to sex trafficking.[21]

In 2007, the United States State Department placed Iran as a "Tier 2" in its annual Trafficking in Persons reports, stating that "it does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so".[25] In 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton downgraded Iran to "Tier 3", noting that the country makes no significant effort to solve trafficking problems, mainly in relation to prostitution and forced labor.[26]

Foreign female victim

Chinese, Thai, and other foreign women are forced to engage in prostitution under the acquiescence of religious leaders in Iran.[27]

See also


  1. ^ "Sex Work Law - Countries". Sexuality, Poverty and Law. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  2. ^ "Experiences and challenges of Prostitute Women in Iran: A phenomenological qualitative study". Heliyon. December 2020. PMID 33319103.
  3. ^ "Shorn of dignity and equality". The Economist. 16 October 2003. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
  4. ^ "Drugs and prostitution 'soar' in Iran". BBC. 6 July 2000. Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  5. ^ Lapidos, Juliet (23 April 2008). "How to Spot a Persian Prostitute". Slate. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
  6. ^ Larry Getlan (30 August 2014). "Inside modern Iran, where porn and prostitution are rampant". New York Post.
  7. ^ "Iran in focus". Iran Focus. 11 April 2005. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
  8. ^ "Rise in Iranian Prostitution Blamed on Strict Sex Rules, Economy". The Body. 16 September 2002. Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
  9. ^ Fath, Nazila (28 August 2002). "To Regulate Prostitution, Iran Ponders Brothels". New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
  10. ^ ZAHARIE, Cristian Giuseppe. "THE LEGAL REGIME OF PROSTITUTION ON THE MUSLIM COUNTRIES" (PDF). Romanian-American University. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  11. ^ a b c "Prostitute Scandal Rattles Tehran Government". Spiegel Online International. 28 April 2008. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  12. ^ Resaaleye Daneshjouyi; Porsesh-ha va Pasokh-ha. Motaabeghe Nazar-e 10 Tan az Maraaje'e Ezaam. رساله دانشجویی؛ پرسش ها و پاسخ ها. مطابق نظر ده تن از مراجع عظام. Ma'aaref Publication. Student's Risalah. Questions and Answers. Compatible with the Fatwa of Ten People of Marja's. ISBN 978-964-531-307-2. p 223.
  13. ^ Andreeva, Elena (2007). Russia and Iran in the great game: travelogues and Orientalism. Routledge studies in Middle Eastern history. 8. Psychology Press. pp. 162–163. ISBN 0415771536. "Most of the travelers describe the Shi'i institution of temporary marriage (sigheh) as 'legalized profligacy' and hardly distinguish between temporary marriage and prostitution."
  14. ^ Haeri, Shahla (1989). Law of Desire: Temporary Marriage in Shi'i Iran. Contemporary Issues in the Middle East. Syracuse University Press. p. x. ISBN 0815624832. "Outside of the religious establishment and the ongoing disputes between Shi'i and Sunni scholars, the attitude toward temporary marriage has been primarily one of ambivalence and disdain. Before the revolution of 1979, the secular Iranian middle classes dismissed temporary marriage as a form of prostitution that had been legitimized by the religious establishment, who, to use a popular Persian expression, 'put a religious hat on it.'"
  15. ^ Temporary Marriage in Islam Part 6: Similarities and Differences of Mut’a and Regular Marriage | A Shi'ite Encyclopedia | Books on Islam and Muslims | Permanent archived link.
  16. ^ "Iddah Of Mutah".
  17. ^ "Marriage " Mut'ah (temporary marriage) - Islamic Laws - The Official Website of the Office of His Eminence Al-Sayyid Ali Al-Husseini Al-Sistani".
  18. ^ "The Rules in Matrimony and Marriage". 3 October 2012.
  19. ^ "How is Mutah different from prostitution (from a non-Muslim point of view)?".
  20. ^ "Marriage".
  21. ^ a b "Iran 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. Retrieved 24 June 2018.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  22. ^ ایجاد مراکز بهداشتی برای زنان روسپی. Islamic Republic of Iran News Network. Permanent Archived Link. Retrieved and Archived on 15 July 2016. Translation of the Title: Creating Healthcare Centers for Female Sex Workers. Quoted from IRNA.
  23. ^ نیوز, اخبار روز ایران و جهان | آفتاب. "۱۰ هزار "تن فروش" در تهران از متأهل تا کارمند/ارتباط جنسی برای عبور از بوروکراسی اداری". fa (in Persian). Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  24. ^ "تن‌فروشی به‌خاطر پنج‌هزار تومان" [Prostitution for $ 5,000]. Radio Zamaneh. 3 August 2016.
  25. ^ "Trafficking in Persons Report". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. U.S. Department of State. 25 February 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
  26. ^ Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labor (2010). "Trafficking in Persons Report 2010". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 17 June 2010. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  27. ^ "Iran". United States Department of State. Retrieved 3 January 2022.