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January 30, 2004

Right Man vs. Right Rights
Somayeh Sadat  [info|posts]

The family law in Iran, rooted in the so-called traditional Islamic law, is archaic and unjust indeed. For a woman to marry, her consent and that of her father are both needed but to terminate the marriage, the woman has no say. The right to divorce is totally and unconditionally [almost] granted to the husband.

From a woman's perspective, once married, there is no way out without her husband's consent unless there are certain circumstances such as proof of physical/emotional abuse of the wife by the husband or evidence of substance abuse on his part. Even if these circumstances happen, they are at best subjective issues decided upon in courts.

The husband, however, can terminate the marriage at any time, just with some minor legal obligations, such as paying the woman her nuptial gift and [recently in Iran] her financial share of their common life. To make matters worse, the right to custody of their children is also by default granted to man. So a man can wake up one morning, decide he wants a divorce, pay the woman her share, and raise the children himself, all done legally. This may totally ruin that woman’s life, and there is no protection in the law against it.

There are other inequities s as well. Women need their husband’s legal agreement for traveling abroad and husbands can actually prevent them from working or even leaving the house, if desired. How have women responded to this inequity? Their approach has been quite disappointing. For years, women and their families have looked for the "right man", instead of trying to gain the "right rights". In their view, the chances of a divorce when living with the "right man" are slim. Moreover, to balance their legal positions in times of dispute in their favor, they ask for an exorbitant nuptial gift that the man obviously could not pay. This way, if the woman ever wants a divorce, she could put her husband in the dilemma of either going to prison because he could not afford the nuptial gift, or giving her the permission to get a divorce and perhaps the custody of children so that in return she waives her nuptial gift.

I think the time for this temporary solution is over. Women should now try to gain the "right rights". Although they can't probably change the laws in the near future, they are legally able to add extra conditions to their marriage certificate [as a legal contract under the Iranian law]. They can ask for a unilateral right to divorce , as well as an equal right to the custody of children. Surprisingly, the majority of women, even the educated ones, are not doing this. They are still hoping that the man they are marrying is the right one, and that threats of high nuptial gift will suffice to ensure they don't get trapped in an unhappy marriage.

I believe that it's now time for all women in Iran to ask for these rights at the time of marriage. I also know that unfortunately not all women are in such a position to ask for such rights. Therefore I think it is the moral duty of all women who are in such a position, to do so, so that over time this becomes a norm in the society and no woman will be scared to ask for these rights. Then hopefully one day the nuptial gift really means what it was meant for: a simple gift given by the husband to the wife, and not a threat by the wife. Right?

Ghazal at January 30, 2004 07:00 PM [permalink]:

I am very skeptical of legality or even possibility of adding such a condition about the custody of children under the present family law.

Somayeh Sadat at January 30, 2004 07:19 PM [permalink]:

Ghazal: It is legal and possible. You may find some information here (in persian):

(the second condition is in regards to the custody of children)

Señor Græd at January 30, 2004 09:36 PM [permalink]:

"For years, women and their families have looked for the "right man", instead of trying to gain the "right rights"."

How true! But isn't it the way things are done in our society in a more general setting as well? Aren't we always content as long as the "system" works well for *us*? Instead of aspiring to make the whole society (or "social machine", whatever that means) work properly, we *all* try to get our own end of work done right and are perfectly happy as long as our dues and those of our own tribe (read: FAK O FAAMIL O ROFAGHAA O DOOST O AASHENAA) are paid?

That is why I think Iranians either have not yet developed a concept of Justice, or are not taking it seriously enough to strive to make a just society where justice rules for *everyone* (and not just *saying* it in nice golden words, while virtually nobody believes in it who is not viewed by others as a fool).

Señor Græd at January 30, 2004 09:40 PM [permalink]:

Quick afterthought: I think what I just wrote is an instance of the old binary of Tradition vs Modernity. Iran and Iranians' way of thinking in general seems to be quite far from the mentality of the citizens in a civil society, though, thank God, not as far those of some of our neighboring countries. :-)

Señor Græd at January 30, 2004 09:48 PM [permalink]:

True anecdote: I have a cousin who lived with her abusive husband for a number of years under the pressure of family (and society) and is now divorced with a grown up son. (I guess she and her husbands take turns in taking care of him, but I'm not so sure of the details.) She married after the revolution, and I remember a relative told her right when she was about to sign the marriage contract that she should better opt for signing the part that would allow her to initiate a divorce. At once there was an uproar among the guests that so-and-so is talking about divorce at the wedding night and it is bad omen and crap of that sort. I don't know what she finally did, but I won't forget that everybody was trying to make it seem of little consequence to sign that part of the contract.

hajir at January 30, 2004 11:00 PM [permalink]:

You don't get your rights by asking for them but by fighting for them. I was watching a documentary on HBO last night about the issue of color in the US and how some brilliant black lawyer fought for the rights of his people tirelessly. He was not a lawyer in the beginning but at some point he made a decision to become a lawyer and fight injustice and he was quite successful.
There is a lot of injustice in Iran and we can't make a difference by just 'asking' and 'complaining'; we need to educate ourselves and learn the ways to better our situation. It's a pitty that most parents expect their bright children to become doctors and engineers; we need a lot of good lawyers. We need hundreds of Shirin Ebadi's to change the situation.

The battle is also a cultural battle; men and women must educate themselves about the opposite sex before marriage and know the rights that her future husband or his future wife has upon her/him and be ready to compromise on some minor issues because it's not only about them but about their children too.

AmericanWoman at January 30, 2004 11:37 PM [permalink]:

"I won't forget that everybody was trying to make it seem of little consequence to sign that part of the contract"
Here you have defined the reason why women in Iran and in fact everywhere don't "fight for themselves." That message of "don't make trouble, you don't know what you're talking about, someone else knows better than you, I will take care of you, be nice, be nice, be nice." It's relentless brainwashing from the day of birth. Boys will be boys, but bad girls who won't do what they're told are worthless and ugly, since all they are good for is to please and serve others. The thing is, when everything falls apart, it is so much easier to bear if what is in your mind is "I did what I thought was right at the time," rather than "I am alone and abandoned by my protectors, therefore I am completely helpless."

Alis in Wonderland at January 31, 2004 12:23 AM [permalink]:

Have you ever considered that some of the rights you are talking about are in direct violation of the Islamic laws enforced in our country (e.g. Quran 4:3, 4:11, 4:12)? I am not fond of practicing those laws but I think gaining those “right rights” will question some pillars of the current legislation system and the effect would be much more than just women’s rights. This might be one of the reasons why there is so much opposition to them.

Nasser at January 31, 2004 07:33 AM [permalink]:

Somaye jaan,
It is not lawful to insert the condition of the custody of the children in the marriage certificate under the current law which you can find in the iranian civil codes.The article in the "" is legally wrong.
the condition 3 in the mentioned article is illegal either.It is impossible to avoid determining MAHR in marriage under current law.

Just always bear in your mind that marriage is not like the rest of the contracts you can put whatever condition you wish in it. You are confined to insert conditions that law is chiefly silent about them, or not explicitely indicates anything about them.

In addition to that, I would like to say that unless you do not want to change the foundations of the current legal jurisdiction which is an Islamic Law, you won't be able to change any special thing in the current laws and codes in Iran.

Nasser at January 31, 2004 07:33 AM [permalink]:

Somaye jaan,
It is not lawful to insert the condition of the custody of the children in the marriage certificate under the current law which you can find in the iranian civil codes.The article in the "" is legally wrong.
the condition 3 in the mentioned article is illegal either.It is impossible to avoid determining MAHR in marriage under current law.

Just always bear in your mind that marriage is not like the rest of the contracts you can put whatever condition you wish in it. You are confined to insert conditions that law is chiefly silent about them, or not explicitely indicates anything about them.

In addition to that, I would like to say that unless you do not want to change the foundations of the current legal jurisdiction which is an Islamic Law, you won't be able to change any special thing in the current laws and codes in Iran.

Somayeh Sadat at January 31, 2004 09:17 AM [permalink]:

Senor Grad:
I agree with you that Iranians are usually just concerned that the system works well for them. However, in this issue, from the woman and her family’s perspective, the system is not even working for them! That’s why I am encouraging every woman to make the system at least work for her. And I think that’s a small practical step to change the system (ie: the law) in the [far distant] future. Honestly, I don’t see the entire problem in the law; it’s more the paternal culture of our society which has to change. The true anecdote you mentioned is a typical one indeed, and therefore women are scared to ask for these rights. I think they should fight and get them at the time of marriage, and gradually this becomes a norm in the society and they won’t need to "fight" to get them anymore! I guess this was the way that women won the current right to divorce, if their husband in on drugs. They just started to sign that condition, and this became a norm. Now everyone signs that, without really "fighting" for it.

Alis in Wonderland:
I certainly know that it’s against Islam (or if you believe in different approached in Islam, let’s say traditional Islam). That’s why I said women cannot change the law in the near future, and that’s why I propose that they add these conditions for the time being, before the laws are changed (if ever!). This is the only practical way I can think of.

I am not a lawyer, and my proposal is based on the information posted on the women in Iran website. So if they are wrong, I have nothing to say. You said : "unless you do not want to change the foundations of the current legal jurisdiction which is an Islamic Law, you won't be able to change any special thing in the current laws and codes in Iran", 100% correct, but I am not even thinking of changing the law in the near future, I am just thinking of fooling the law by adding these conditions!

Mohammad at January 31, 2004 12:28 PM [permalink]:

I am so much sick and tired of this whole new Iranian feminist crap advertised by mostly stay-at-home or stay-at-school and never do wells young Iranian girls.
Believe me or not wanting the same rights of an average working western girl –alimony, half of everything, child support, custody … - along with Mehriye, no obligation to work and contribute to the family financially, no half of mortgage and other bills, and so on is nothing less of too much of an unreasonable request.
If the British women at the dawn of century had have any slogan instead of “NO VOTE, NO TAX” they would have achieved nothing by now.

Borghan N. Narajabad at January 31, 2004 12:36 PM [permalink]:

Great subject, and nice approach.

I don’t think, what Nasser is saying is correct: In a marriage, bride can ask for whatever wants from the groom. There are some cases in which bride asks for a HAND of groom as her MAHR! And this contract is completely enforceable. So I don’t think getting custody of children is something you can’t get: Legally, it is groom’s right to have custody of children, and he can give up this right as part of marriage contract.

About MAHR, Nasser says: “It is impossible to avoid determining MAHR in marriage under current law.” A couple can determine one flower as MAHR, and this is completely legally.

Though this approach may be very reasonable for a couple with economic productive bride, I don’t think it is proper for those with unproductive brides:
In those families, I think, giving up MAHR, which can be used as a financial security in case of divorce, and gaining the divorce right is not a rational choice for a lady who can’t have a proper job, if she has to pay for her life expenses.

Though the current marriage laws may seem pro-man, I think if you read them in the context of economic environment of traditional society, they are more pro-woman:
When the breadwinner is man, taking to account man’s psychology (who in general wants to hunt rather than settle), I think it’s irrational for woman, to accept living with man for a longtime, without having the financial security for the case of divorce.

Child custody may seem to be right, and actually in current world it is, but it use to be rather responsibility. FEGH (traditional Islamic law code) gives the custody of children to man, so woman dos not have to pay for their expenses out of their MAHR in the case of divorce.

I know all of us can recall lots of stories we’ve heard about how brutal is to separate a child from her/his mother, and really it is. But be careful to take to account, the other side of possible outcome.

In general I think Somayeh’s approach would be the best one: Keep the current law as a base for traditional families, in which women are not economic productive, and add to the conditions of marriage whatever is necessary in other cases.

Borghan N. Narajabad at January 31, 2004 01:05 PM [permalink]:


About 4:3 of Koran: If you take to account, the fact that population of men were always less than women, due to higher vulnerability of men to disease than women, also taking to account wars, polygamy was a must in some cases. And as a matter of fact Islam kept it controlled by ceiling the maximum up to 4, and asking for justice among the wives. Notice that based on requirement of justice among wives; one cannot marry another women without having approval of his current wife. Obviously, polygamy is not proper way of life in the current world, and it is not being practiced, accept in very rare cases, anymore; but we shouldn’t forget its necessity for the traditional world.

About Koran 4:11 and 4:12 : again, in traditional economic society, women were not as productive as men, so in order to maintain the wealth, people use to leave whole of their wealth for their sons, and in some cases like Europe, even now, only to their favorite son. Islam allows one to only determine the distribution of 1/3 of her/his wealth by the will, and the rest should be distributed according to the law, which asks for 1:2 ratio between daughter and son. Now if one likes to distribute the wealth equally, can use the 1/3 of wealth to distribute it evenly, or sometimes distribute it before death.
Islam guaranteed the minimum rights for women, which they didn’t have before, and in some cases they still don’t; Now according to new era which we’re leaving, we can adjust for the rest; The rights approved in Koran are the minimum, which Muslim should never go below that level, but they can always go above.

linda at February 1, 2004 02:18 AM [permalink]:

Somaya,It's so facinating how you can see the world in black and white.
I haven't been living in Iran for a while,but even when I lived in Iran, I never saw Iranian woman the way you described; Helpless creatures who were always looking for the Right man. Though I don't see why looking for Mr.Right is a wrong thing? Marrying a smart, undrestanding and respectful man is in fact a great thing.
These are the women whom I grew up around:
My aunt a teacher who seperated from her very rich husband and raised 6 kids on a teacher's salary without a penny from her husband.
My grandma who despite having minum of education managed all the family finances to this day and despite all the hardships that my family has been through, war was one of them, thanks to her , she and my grandpa had a great retirement and a lot of investments.
My Mother, who at times single handedly kept a department in one of the most prominent universities in Iran alive and going, in the midst of political lay offs in Iran universities. To this day even in california I occasionally receive calls from her students, who want to thank her for standing for them and keeping the spirit of the science alive.
My mom's best freind,who left her abusive husband, and raised her two kids fighting for them in Iranian courts for years. Taking all kinds of insults, and living under extreme conditions.
And I met lots of Iranian girls, coming to college from small towns and villages, just to go back to their home town with a whole new perspectives.
In case you haven't noticed : Iranian women have started to fight for their rights long ago, it just takes a long time.
I confess comparing to U.S Iranian women may have little to no-rights, but Iranian men don't have much more rights than them anyways. Remember in a society that basic human rights don't exist, it's really hard for women to gain their rights.
And the other thing: Revolution is for lazy people, who don't want to work hard on changing themselves and want to get it over with fast.
Iranian women can't change the laws overnight, it will take years for them to improve the situation.
Opera and Carly Fionera in U.S are product of over 100 years of woman right activist struggles.
And to sum it up,Once while hiking with my father I told him jokingly: " Dad ladies First." He looked back at me and gave me the best lesson to date :"There is no such a thing as man and woman,We are all humen.The strongest goes first; Be the strongest and get ahead."

If it wasn't for my intelectual grandpas or my pro father, I would have never stand where I am standing.
Those men believed in women's right and abilities all their life and always support and pushed for women's rights.
Yes we do need Mr.Rights, we really need them. Because we need an equal world.

AIS at February 1, 2004 03:42 AM [permalink]:


There is no doubt that women should be the ones who keep fighting for their rights and that changes won't take place overnights. But the situation is Iran is worse than the darkest times of the middle ages. I don't think, even considering Iran a Middle Eastern country with still a long way to go, that our women should be enduring SUCH hardships. Nothing about this is natural or even cultural. I don't think any significant progress can be made under such a regime. It doesn't mean that the day to day struggle is pointless, but what it means is that that struggle is more about keeping the old heritage alive (as your Mom did) and preventing things from getting worse. I'm sure you do agree that this can't continue for ever. At some point real progress forward must be made, and that is after this system has collapsed.

But I do agree with you that in the present time, Iranian women and girls are in every sense more courages and up for fighting than their male counterparts (me included).

Wessie at February 1, 2004 04:15 AM [permalink]:

What an excellent point Linda makes with this statement:

"Revolution is for lazy people, who don't want to work hard on changing themselves and want to get it over with fast."

That is the thing I have been saying all along. When will the Middle East/Islamic world stop whining and start putting their backs into making their world a "paradise on earth" instead of waiting for allah's paradise?

About that door opening, Linda. I still like it when a man behaves like a gentleman and opens a door for me or helps me on with my coat, etc. OTOH, I have no problem opening a door for him if he is burdened with packages. It's a matter of courtesy and common sense.

A civilization is defined by how it treats its women. Unfortunately, Middle Eastern/Islamic nations have a long, long way to go.

On the bright side, with modern technology and communications the journey might be a quick one. Provided. . . that the Islamofascists don't blow up the world before you all get there.

Now here is a woman with GUTS:

The Egyptian author Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi, known for her fervent Arab-nationalism and feminism, gave a comprehensive interview to the liberal Arabic website on September 20, 2003. The following are excerpts from the interview:

'The Egyptian Constitution Should be Amended to Remove Islam as the Official Religion'

Al-Sa'dawi called for amending the Egyptian constitution and eliminating the article that declares Islam to be the official state religion, "because we have among us Copts, and because religion is a matter between man and God and no one has the right to impose his faith, his God and his rituals on others. Therefore, I am one of the die-hard opponents of a religious state, because our God should not be involved in politics in any fashion. . .

As for the "Islamic culture," Al-Sa'dawi said that it was "part of a general culture based on Christianity, Judaism, and the Pharaoh's heritage. There is no pure culture, but an intertwined relationship among the cultures. I am against differentiating between a Western culture and an Eastern culture. We live in one culture, which is a culture of capitalism, patriarchy, classes, and inferiority that, regretfully, also uses religion as a tool for domination. . . "

Al-Sa'dawi added: "We are defeated intellectually because we do not have creative people. There was always a connection between creativity and rebellion, between creativity and opposition. But we are born, live our lives and die in fear. Therefore, we do not have rebellion and we do not have opposition… Our crisis is at the same time political and cultural. I do not differentiate between politics, economy, culture, feminism, and sex. They are all interrelated and when one central pillar collapses, the whole building collapses." . .

'Egypt's Democracy is Not Real'

When the interviewer stated that Sadat was "the first one to plant the seeds of democracy in Egypt, and even in the entire Arab world," Al-Sa'dawi responded: "This is the biggest lie I have ever heard in my life. There is no significance to the fact that he issued a presidential decree allowing multiple parties, because what was the result? Our parties are not real parties, but 'paper parties.' Real parties emerge from the womb of society, not from a presidential palace. . .


It will take the women of ME/Islamic societies to bring out the truth—that the Emperor has no clothes on and the men have done a terrible job of leading.


Somayeh Sadat at February 1, 2004 11:27 AM [permalink]:

I don't think I ever said Iranian women are not doing well. I strongly believe they are doing well, and know lots of stories similar to those you mentioned. All I am saying is that they are doing well, in the wrong direction. I think they should try to gain the right rights. They can still look for the right man, but once found him, should also gain the right rights. Finding the right man should never satisfy them to the point that they don't ask for the right rights. So what my title suggests is the current situation: Right man vs. right rights, meaning that once women find the right man, they neglect the fact that they should gaing the right rights as well. What I suggest is asking for right rights as well. A lot of Iranian men and women are great ones, no doubt! And please note I am not talking about changing the law at this point.

AmericanWoman at February 1, 2004 01:21 PM [permalink]:

"Revolution is for lazy people, who don't want to work hard on changing themselves and want to get it over with fast."

I find this statement quite bizarre. I don't believe lazy is quite the word, but I agree that peaceful means of change are preferable. It seems violence and destruction are the easiest way to achieve the standard objectives of changing a society, which probably says something depressing about human nature, but it can be done peacefully. For models of how to control the behaviour and thinking of large groups of people, one only has to look to modern Commerce. They aren't reading "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu in American MBA programs because they are interested in Chinese history. Even the terminology in Marketing reflects this.
To me the heart of the problems is how we think of leadership. When I say "we" I mean everyone in the world at this point in time and before. There is this tendancy to hand the leash over and let "Daddy" make all the decisions for us. So we abdicate the power to make our own decisions. I have to agree with Sarah's post on outlining the Bride's rights in the marriage contract, because even if the agreements can't be upheld legally, they show intent, and they send a message to all parties that this is a contract between two parties, not just a transfer of ownership,or stewardship. If we can change the mindset of "who will take care of me" to " I am ultimately responsible for myself," then autocrats and despots will become redundant anachronisms.

AmericanWoman at February 1, 2004 01:32 PM [permalink]:

At the risk of belaboring the point, I think my last post could be summarized by saying that the idea of finding Mr. Right, like that of Benevolant Tyranny is a great system when it works, but you can't count on it. Looking around, how many Lee Kwan Yu's do you see? Even with a A Mighty Good Man, it is true that "Power Corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," So keeping a leader or a husband on the defensive a little bit is healthier all around.

Wessie at February 1, 2004 05:03 PM [permalink]:

I'd rather have a partnership all around than a defensive leader or husband. I don't believe in the kind of undignified, unhealthy games Sheherazade had to play to keep her head.

It seems to me that ME peoples, especially women, are always reduced to having to play games to outwit their "opponents."

I have thought about the process all day because the election campaign appearances /town hall meetings are being broadcast on C-span. If you want to observe the American democratic process in action check here:

C-Span is available via the net, radio and Television.

hajir at February 1, 2004 10:45 PM [permalink]:

American Democratic Process!
A good example of such process happened in Florida, year 2001.

Anyway I am all the way for Kucinich and Al Sharpton.

Wessie at February 1, 2004 10:57 PM [permalink]:

Hajir, you are really, really over the top all the time.

I'll take the American democratic process—despite Florida—any time of the year, instead of the system in ANY Islamic state. At least GW and his machine didn't murder the opposition.

"Anyway I am all the way for Kucinich and Al Sharpton."

ROTFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!! Sharpton. You can't be serious. An Islamic supremacist like you Hajir, rooting for rapping brother Sharpton— my, my, my—will wonders never cease.

Kucinich hasn't got a snowball's chance in Hell. Better try for Kerry or Edwards.

Hamed at February 2, 2004 10:53 AM [permalink]:

This definitely decrease the cost of polygamy and gives it evolutionary advantage * and increase
serial monogamy ** which is equal to polygamy and In a man dominating society like Iran with a
high rate of unemployment it's even worse.

* just a piece of the abstract:
“ The polygamy threshold model states
that if costs incurred are less than the benefits gained from a
polygamous relationship in terms of male or habitat quality, then
polygamy is favored and could evolve.”
** “Most modern industrialized
nations are nominally monogamous, but in fact the soaring divorce
rate makes our society one of "serial monogamy", which is
equivalent in some ways to polygamy.”

Señor Græd at February 2, 2004 11:54 AM [permalink]:

I think it's "serial *poly*gamy", but I may be wrong.

Señor Göogle at February 2, 2004 12:08 PM [permalink]:

"That Americans do not see the obvious truth is amply demonstrated by the popularity of George W. bush."

From the first paragraph of an article by Thomas A Hawk, titled: "LOVE POLITICS: The Case Against Monogamy" available online in PDF format. :-)

Wessie at February 2, 2004 12:15 PM [permalink]:

Your quote is incorrect, Hamed. The word is polygyny NOT polygamy.

" . . .Most modern industrialized nations are nominally monogamous, but in fact the soaring divorce rate makes our society one of "serial monogamy", which is equivalent in some ways to polygyny. . . "

There are more men than women in the world due to selective abortions and infanticide in many "traditional" societies such as the Arab world, China and India. Already in China and India women are being kidnapped because men cannot find mates. China has over 20% more men than women. Turkey also has more men than women. Even in the U.S. young men are finding they outnumber young women. This will create a crisis in the next decades.

It's not good to mess with Mother Nature.

I believe that polyandry, is much more biologically sound. Men cannot handle more than one woman, while the reverse is easier. ;-)

Hamed at February 2, 2004 01:30 PM [permalink]:

Thank you Wessie,
as you mentioned,
polygyny is the right word.I'm sorry for that mistake. This time, I agree with you: "It's not good to mess with Mother Nature."

Señor Græd at February 2, 2004 01:58 PM [permalink]:

This is all un-related to this post, but since you brought it up, FYI, Hamed, "polygamy" is the term that is used to mean either both "polygyny" and "polyandry". Many cultures around the world allow one or another form of polygyny, while instances of polyandry are, and have been, in comparison, extremely rare. In most Western cultures, polygyny is frowned upon, or is simply illegal (note, however, that in the state of Utah, the law against polygyny is not enforced), while sodomy, for example, is legal, perhaps because it is considered more "natural" than bigamy or polygamy. (You too may have seen many polygamous animals, in particular animals from the family of homo sapiens, but I have yet to seen gay chimpanzees.)

Finally, the term "serial polygamy" is coined to draw your attention to the fact that even though Americans boast about being monogamous, they are in fact polygamous, more so than our poor fathers in Iran could have dreamt of, though not in a "parallel" (simaltaneous) fashion, as, say, a wealthy Kuwaiti shaykh or a non-Muslim African chief West Africa could be.

Alis in Wonderland at February 2, 2004 08:34 PM [permalink]:

If you are looking for cases of “polyandry” as far as I remember the most commonly practiced case was in Tibet when brothers shared the same wife.

Wessie at February 2, 2004 10:36 PM [permalink]:

" (note, however, that in the state of Utah, the law against polygyny is not enforced),"

Mr. Google, as usual you are wrong. Giving up multiple spouses was a condition of statehood for Utah.

The laws against polygamy, polygyny, polyandry, endogamy and exogamy are enforced in ALL of the US not because the practices are "unnatural" but because they unfair and undemocratic. However, some Mormons marry one wife and the rest are common-law. The way the law gets them then is if they accept welfare for breeding too many children and being a burden to society. Just recently a man was prosecuted for it.

" while sodomy, for example, is legal, perhaps because it is considered more "natural" than bigamy or polygamy. (You too may have seen many polygamous animals, in particular animals from the family of homo sapiens, but I have yet to seen gay chimpanzees.) "

Sodomy was quite illegal in many states until last year when a Texas law was struck down by the Supreme Court, invoking a right to privacy for consenting adults— a number of other sex acts are still illegal in some conservative states. Since homosexuality is quite the rage in the ME among men (and always has been) one always wonders why Muslim males freak out about it in public.

And YES, Mr. Google there is homosexuality among the animals including primates like bonobos and chimps. There is also war among primates.

"Serial polygamy" LOL —you should stop reading psych term papers linked by Hamed, Mr. Google. ;-) Try reading real scholars like Jane Goodall to learn about our resemblance to primates.

Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity by Bruce Bagemihl, is a book you should read, Mr. Google. ;-)


So what is going to happen when all those hormone impaired Islamic males, who outnumber females, get to puberty—another holy war or two? ;-)


Zahra at February 3, 2004 12:02 PM [permalink]:

"I'd rather have a partnership all around than a defensive leader or husband. I don't believe in the kind of undignified, unhealthy games Sheherazade had to play to keep her head.

It seems to me that ME peoples, especially women, are always reduced to having to play games to outwit their "opponents"."

Wessie, The "one thousand and one night" is an old tale. It existed even before Islam, so it is not how Moslem women had to play to live or how ME people had to play or anything like that!

I think it is not fare to compare a 2000-year-old tale with today’s situation. Every thing is changed since then. It is as though you compare ancient Europe people with today’s Americans. Of course there has been no women rights 2000 years ago in Europe of anywhere else.

zahra at February 3, 2004 12:04 PM [permalink]:

Sorry for the typo! “I think it is not fair…”

Wellesley Girl at February 3, 2004 02:03 PM [permalink]:

Looking for the right man is in no way similar to looking for the right rights! Men look for Ms. right too! It's part of nature! Social Darwinism it's called! You unknowingly want to produce offsprings with better genes; it's genetic. Now the fact that men's idea of Ms. Right is always twisted is a different issue. Another thing, I never understood the reason for nuptial gift! I mean marriage is a bond between the two sides, not a trade!

Meenu at February 3, 2004 03:25 PM [permalink]:

I think 1001 nights explains husband-wife dynamics in ME very well. A woman always has to protect her husband's feelings and so learns to be very manipulative. It is sad that she does not have an equal partnership with her husband. If you don't like 1001 nights then think of it as king and vazir relationship.

Wessie at February 3, 2004 03:48 PM [permalink]:

Zarah, that is exactly the point. People have not changed that much in thousands of years—certainly not from a biological standpoint. And it is very "fair" to compare today's ME women with those of hundreds of years ago. They still have to "play games" and "tell stories" in order to get even a few of their rights. Before Islam women had more rights in some places.

Certainly, in the West, the women of ancient Rome had lots of rights. It came and went through the ages—but, Western women were always more free. Today, there are laws in the West to protect EVERYONE's rights. But, despite those, women are still not treated exactly "equally." However, in comparison to the mediaeval state of women's rights in the ME and some other parts of the world—particularly Islamic states, we have come a long way.

Can you explain what you mean by "twisted"—WG? I don't believe that mens' idea of Ms. right is always "twisted." That idea is directly reflective of ME/Islamic societies who produce men with twisted ideas about how to treat women. While there are lots of losers and weirdos in the West, there are still legions more good men. Certainly no Western women are flocking to the ME to marry their men—while the opposite is true. Even ME men will lower themselves to marry an "old, ugly" Western woman to stay here.

One of my favorite operas is Rossini's "The Italian Girl in Algiers" (L'Italiana in Algeri) which I saw again in Europe recently.

It is not such an "old" tale/opera compared to 1001 Nights. However, the subterfuge that the women must go through to get their rights and freedom from the omnipotent Mustafà is still appalling and applicable today. Lots of wives, slaves and concubines in the "serraglio" not to mention Islamic "booty" and even torture, in this opera. The moral of the story: "a woman, when she wishes, is capable of tricking anyone." It is the cunning of the women, that get the best of the potentate. Of course, if Islamic societies were fair and just there would be no need at all for trickery.

The opera is very funny. In real life this sort of thing is not.

Click here for some opera fun

Read the plot of L'Italiana in Algeri. It still applies today.

Zahra at February 3, 2004 04:32 PM [permalink]:


I actually like 1001 nights. It is really a great story, but it is not true that women in middle east are still like women in 2000 years ago. Actually in some parts of the story, there are men who are victims not women! I just wanted to mention that everything is much different now.

Meenu at February 3, 2004 06:29 PM [permalink]:

Zahra, I agree with you when we are talking about Iranian society, especially in Tehran. Iranian women have the most rights in ME countries. I think it is interesting that the Farsi language does not have gender, perhaps more than just a coincidence. But in the middle east mostly the 1001 dynamic is true, even in Iran. Wherever there is mardsalari.

Wessie at February 3, 2004 11:24 PM [permalink]:

Well, folks, from a Western perspective, it certainly does not seem like Iranian or ME women have many rights.

Could you all specify just WHAT those rights are? From where we sit, we just don't see it.


Behdad at February 3, 2004 11:45 PM [permalink]:

Somaye: I have actually seen these kinds of contracts being done by Iranian couples recently. I have heard these had been initiated from feminist bloggers like "khorshid-khaanoom" and others. The specific one I know is a friend of mine which Shirin Ebadi wrote the conract between him and his bride a couple of months before the Nobel thing.

Wessie at February 4, 2004 07:38 AM [permalink]:
NPR has been featuring this on Iran: LINK One of the noteworthy things about the report is that journatlist Davar Ardalan could not go back to Iran ". . . for personal reasons, relating to my first marriage, I won't go back right now. . . " Now, ladies, I doubt very much that such a thing would happen to a prominent reporter in the West. Below are some excerpts: ". . .Having grown up in a secular Iran I felt scared and confused by the militancy around me. I had gotten some religious education growing up but I didn't understand this Islamic fervor. I'd go to school only to find a classmate wearing black - his father - a member of the Shah's cabinet having just been executed by the infamous hanging judge Khalkhali. The Shah was a close ally of the United States and my family had close ties to America. . . ." ". . . The 1906 Constitution stated that the Parliament was completely independent but in Iran today the Parliament is not independent and a body known as the Guardian Council can veto all the laws and demand that they are according to Shariah law. I've to explain to you what is Guardian Council. The members of Guardian Council are selected by Supreme Leader. Supreme Leader is an Islamic Cleric. Therefore we have turned back in time. . ." ". . . Over seventy years after Davar's reforms they find themselves once again struggling to reinterpret Shariah law, to make it more compatible to modern times. . . ." ". . .A year after the Islamic revolution I left Iran. The country embarrassed me. I had to get away from the rigidity. But it was hard being Iran Davar Ardalan in Brookline, Mass. I wasn't sure where I fit. So a year later, I went back to Iran to visit my family and without expecting it, I got swept up in the Islamic fervor and traditional ways. That's how I ended up getting married to someone I'd known for only a month. I was married according to Shariah Law - at my wedding men and women were in separate rooms. The cleric reading the vows sat behind a wooden door. My family and friends back in the US were stunned at my sudden change. I wore the veil and prayed five times a day. But I was starting to doubt whether the role of traditional submissive wife was going to work for me. . . " ". . . in Iran, even discussing the separation of mosque and state can land you in jail. Most Islamic countries around the world base their legal codes on a set of religious laws known as "Shariah", from the Koran and the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad. But countries vary greatly in their application of Shariah. For example, adultery is a serious breach of Islamic law. But in Egypt, the punishment is six months to 2 years in jail whereas in Iran, a woman convicted of adultery may be stoned to death. . ." " . . .The state mandates all kinds of things related to daily life-even the names of children. . . ." Parastou - According to the law of the Islamic Republic a woman's life is worth only half that of the man and therefore we had to pay the family of the killer of my mother blood money if we wanted to ask for the death penalty for him. This is precisely the kind of law my parents were against. SCRIPT: Because Parastou refused to demand the death penalty as Islamic law decrees; the judges instead, gave the three light jail sentences. Examples of how arbitrary and capricious the Islamic courts are. And they say the courts are used to punish journalists and political activists who speak out against the system. . . " ". . .The class i ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Señor Græd at February 4, 2004 01:53 PM [permalink]:

All right, is this woman's name (producing for NPR) "Iran" or "Davar"? It seems that she hasn't yet made up her mind about it. And why is she pronouncing it like "DIVAAR"? It was funny. (I laughed.) In any case, Davar is a very unusual Persian name, even for males. And what the *coincidence* that her name is Iran (or is it?) and the *happenstance* that her grandfather was someone important have to do with all that? It's just ridiculous.

Señor Græd at February 4, 2004 01:57 PM [permalink]:

And for the record, and to be fair, although women in the West (or in the US) got the right to property only about a century ago, Islam had given the right to property to women 14 centuries ago. I'm just too tried to google and find hard facts, so do it yourself, if you're interested.

Señor Google at February 4, 2004 02:02 PM [permalink]:

The modern feminist movement had its roots in England in the second half of the 19th century. It was promoted by women who sought property rights denied them under British law. Even after the British Parliament approved the first Married Women's Property Act in 1882, women continued to be denied property in their own right, independent of their husband's -a right that was granted Muslim women in the 7th century, in the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

atmikha at February 5, 2004 12:51 AM [permalink]:

Senior Grad,
what is your point? I have been skipping all of Wessie's posts, so perhaps that's why I am not understanding you.
Are you saying that Muslim society is more advanced from the point of view of women's rights?

Wessie at February 5, 2004 09:02 AM [permalink]:

What a shame that you did not go to the NPR (National Public Radio) website and read the article/broadcast, Senior.

Her name is Iran, but she uses her middle name "Davar" for obvious reasons. Had you read the article you would have found that out.

The broadcast is very good and not "ridiculous"! The fact that her grandfather was a fighter for the legal system and social justice is the connection.

"Even after the British Parliament approved the first Married Women's Property Act in 1882, women continued to be denied property in their own right, independent of their husband's -a right that was granted Muslim women in the 7th century, in the time of the Prophet Muhammad."

This is a dead horse! Women in Islam have NEVER had more rights than women in the West and they STILL do not have them today—regardless of what the Qur'an or the hadith say. Women don't get what they are promised in the Qur'an, which is a whole lot less than Western women have always had—even when there were no specific property rights. And, half of a man is still half! Women in the West have always been permitted to be in society, walk about and work. Muslim women, for the most part, could not do that. Again, one can hardly compare the headgear in previous ages of a Western woman to a veil. One can hardly compare the inability of upper class Victorian women to work to purdah.

As atmikha said, Senior, what is your point?

What a shame, Senior, that so many of you can never see connections in anything. That might have something to do with the fact that you never seem to get anywhere—this inability to connect the dots and learn. Mathematics is hardly common sense. The West wonders if it is a waste of time and energy to try to lead your part of the world to water.


Señor Græd at February 5, 2004 07:10 PM [permalink]:


I don't read very long comments myself either. I just skim through them, because I don't have much time left on earth, you know. Some writings just don't merit close examination and I'd rather spend my time on more useful pursuits. But I think I saw someone somewhere had written in a comment something about Islam not having given women *any* rights. Now, if you read my comment again, you will notice how I started it: "For the record, and to be fair..." So, to answer your question, no, I am by no means suggesting that women in Islamic societies are better off than women in the West. Not in our century, at least. I was just going to mention an historical fact that might have been overlooked otherwise. That's all.

Meenu at February 5, 2004 07:20 PM [permalink]:

I should not have said the term rights because it has a specific meaning to most of you as something granted by the government. I meant in a personal sense granted by the society. I assume Turkey would be the ME country with the most rights for women even though Turks are macho, but probably Iran is second because the other ME countries are so bad regarding this. I believe Iranian society is the most egalitarian in ME regarding gender. Women are free to go into politics, university, work, have their own organizations, magazines, broadcasting, socializing with men, getting married. The basic requirement for women's rights is that women not be invisible, clealy Iranian women are not invisible. They even are asking for the right to divorce in the marriage contract. And they do this despite over twenty years of islamic imposition. They love life, they have not been beaten down, they do not accept defeat. Underneath it Iranian society has maintained the egalitarian nature with regard to gender. The debate about womens rights is very active. In other ME countries the women have accepted that they are less than the men and would be shocked by Iranian women.

Wessie at February 5, 2004 10:02 PM [permalink]:
In the West rights are seen as inalienable and granted by the creator not by society. This tenet has been adopted by the UN. You might want to check out the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 1. "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Article 2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty. . . Article 6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. . . " • (It does not say that a female is worth half that of a male!) Article 16. (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. • (What sort of "free and full consent" can a 13 year old girl make?) Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. • (In many Islamic countries other religions are persecuted or not allowed.) Article 30. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein." Here it is in Farsi: --- Here is the "International Bill of Human Rights" and "The Proclamation of Teheran" Which says in part: "1. It is imperative that the members of the international community fulfil their solemn obligations to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinctions of any kind such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions; . . 15. The discrimination of which women are still victims in various regions of the world must be eliminated. An inferior status for women is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations as well as the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The full implementation of the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is a necessity for the progress of mankind; 16. The protection of the family and of the child remains the concern of the international community. Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and the spacing of their children; . . . " --- Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Article 1 "Discrimination against women, denying or limiting as it does t ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Boru at February 19, 2004 12:53 PM [permalink]:

My question is not about marriage it is about why are "Women Second Class Citizens" under Islamic Law? Both men and women are created by God why are men consider superior? It just seems to me that Iran needs to recognize women as equals as the rest of the worlds has. As an American man I am ashamed of our past treatment of Blacks, Native Americans as well as women but we have righted that wrong or are trying to right that wrong. The world has a lot of great minds and a good amout are women when Iran recognizes that they can move ahead and reclaim it's place as a great innovator as it has been in the past.