• Athena Ives

Nikah Mut'ah "Pleasure Marriage"

Nikah mut'ah "pleasure marriage" is a private and verbal temporary marriage contract that is practiced in Twelver Shia Islam in which the duration of the marriage and the mahr must be specified and agreed upon in advance. It is a private contract made in a verbal or written format. A declaration of the intent to marry and an acceptance of the terms are required as in other forms of marriage in Islam.

Despite being illegal in Iraq, the BBC found that mutaa marriages were widely available in Kadhimiya. Out of 10 clerics approached by a BBC undercover reporter, eight said they performed them. Of those eight, we had further conversations with two who agreed to approve them for girls as young as nine.

“You can marry a girl for half an hour and as soon as it’s over, you can marry another,” one of the clerics, Sayyed Raad, told our reporter on camera, “even after half an hour, you can marry another,” he repeats.

In Kadamiya, Sayyed Raad offered to officiate a pleasure marriage between our reporter and “a young virgin”. He advised him not to take her virginity during their time together, adding that “anal sex is permitted”. “If I do take her virginity, God forbid, what do I do?” our reporter enquired. “Do [her family] know where you live?” Sayyed Raad asked. “No, they don’t,” our reporter confirmed. “Then you can just leave,” the cleric declared.

“Our young men aren't even interested in 18-year-olds,” he says. “They're looking for 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds. At 18 she will barely have a chance. “The court's social worker says she has processed 126 teenage marriages in the last six weeks alone. She predicts most of them will end in divorce.

Ali says he personally prefers girls who are 16 and older because they are more experienced and more affordable than the younger girls. The 12-year-olds, he says, are “fresh” and therefore more expensive, earning the clerics as much as $800 per contract.  

Rusul agrees it is the virgins that are in demand. 

“There are clerics who look for young virgin girls because many customers want them, they are more desired, and people pay more for them. This is happening to many girls - not just a few.”

Even though this practice is illegal, it is still being practiced. In fact, 2 years ago the Iraqi Government was trying to pass a law to move the legal marrying age from 18 to 9 years old. It did not pass but they are trying again. This is one story of a 9-year-old forced to marry a 28-year-old man. Similar to many child marriage and child rape practices around the world, they are illegal, however, these laws are not being enforced and are openly practiced. Child rape and Child Sex Trafficking is taking place under the name of religious and cultural “practices” and the world is failing to enforce these laws.

It is not uncommon that religious laws have been misinterpreted, twisted, and at times altered to meet the demands of the sexual desires of men. Many of us in the United States or in other Western Cultures are often unaware of the extreme oppression, slavery, and sexual abuse girls and women are being forced to endure around the world. Afghanistan is another example of this.

After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the United States claimed to have freed Afghan women from the misogynist regime of the Taliban. However, this is not the case. There are countless stories of abuse still going on, which include beatings, cutting of toes, hands, noses, and many other horrific acts. Because of these hardships, the depression rate among Afghan women is over 90 percent and scores of women commit suicide by self-burning every month (Qazi, 2009).

Bashira, a 14-year-old girl, was gang-raped by three men, one of them the son of an infamous warlord in Sar-e-Pul (Northern Province ) called Haji Payinda. Although she raised her voice and demanded justice, the boy is free today with no action taken against him. Previously, President Hamid Karzai pardoned three men from influential tribes in the Northern Alliance convicted of raping and killing a woman (RAWA, 2009).

On Saturday April 4th, 2009 a leaked copy of the laws surfaced in The Times in the UK , revealing President Karzai’s legislation. This law permits marital rape, bans women from leaving their homes without permission and allows girls to be married from when they start menstruating (Times, 2009). Canada has made it clear that they will remove their 2,800 troops if this law is not repealed (Cohen, 2009). Several articles found in this legislation are shown below.

Article 27 The age of maturity (and thus marriage) is 15 for boys; for girls it is when they have their first period.

Article 132 The couple should not commit acts that create hatred and bitterness. The wife is bound to preen for her husband, as and when he desires. The husband, except when traveling or ill, is bound to have intercourse with his wife every four nights. The wife is bound to give a positive response.

Article 133 The husband can stop the wife from any unnecessary, un-Islamic act. The wife cannot leave the house without the permission of the husband.

Article 177 The wife does not have the right to the provision of maintenance by the husband unless she agrees to have intercourse with him and he gets an opportunity for doing so.

Obedience, readiness for intercourse and not leaving the house without the permission of the husband are the duties of the wife, violation of every one of them will mean disobedience to the husband (Times, 2009).

While there have been many positive changes, an increase in laws to protect women and children, more women standing up against abuse, it is not enough. There are over 15 million children married every single year around the world, many, as you have seen, against their will. Making child marriage illegal is not enough without enforcing it! We need to stop turning a blind eye. It doesn’t matter what your religious beliefs are, a 9-year-old is not able to consent and a parent or guardian has no right to giver permission for her to be raped! This isn’t a one religion or one Country’s problem, this is a GLOBAL PROBLEM! One that fuels Sex Trafficking. Religious and cultural practices that are enslaving women, forcing them into sexual slavery under the name of “marriage”. It is all of our problem and we need to speak out and stand up against it!


Benard, James (2002). Veiled Courage. Random House Inc. New York, New York USA.

Cohen, Toby (2009). Sexist Afghan law Deters NATO Troops. Retrieved on May 14th, 2009 from http://www.religiousintelligence.co.uk/news/?NewsID=4189.

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Times (2009). President Karzai's Taleban-Style Laws for Women. Retrieved on May 14th, 2009 from http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6025362.ece.

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