Iranian Women Prostitution - An Act Of Mercy

Minna and Fariba are neighbours and good friends. They support one another. Both have to live under the pervasive curtailment of women's rights and the double standards of today's Iranian society. They make a living walking the streets looking for men. They have a choice between leaving their small children at home alone or bringing them along when they have sex with men.

The film is a sympathetic portrait of the two women, exploring their day-to-day life and the workings of prostitution in a country that bans it and prosecutes adulterers, sometimes with the penalty of capital punishment.

Many of the clients find a way to buy sex and still comply with Muslim law: they marry the women in what is called 'Sighe', a temporary marriage sanctioned in Shia Islam. Sighe can last from two hours up to 99 years. Both Minna and Fariba enter into Sighe with clients, and Fariba is in a Sighe marriage with a neighbour, Habib, that lasts six months. Giving his perspective on temporary marriage, Habib says that Sighe is a way to help poor women, it is an act of mercy in the name of Allah.

The film follows the two women for more than a year. It describes their middle-class backgrounds and their submission to treacherous men and drugs. We see how Fariba manages to quit drugs and prostitution, only to find herself temporarily married to a man who will not let her leave the house.

The film is narrated by the director, Nahid Persson, who fled Iran 20 years ago. Her commentary adds her perspective and contextual information to the film's events. An element of the film is the difficulties faced by a female director shooting a film. Filming prostitution in the street was hard and dangerous, as is evident in the film. The director has to submit to the same restraints as the film's two women in a ludicrously patriarchal society marked by religious restrictions, oppression of women, and social decline. The story of Minna and Fariba mirrors the greater story of Iranian society.

It may sound in odds when one talks about pandemic presence of prostituion in Iran, especially in major cities like Tehran, considering strict Islamic laws ruling the country. But it is pervasive and occasionally, if you have your eyes open, you may spot a "pick up" on busy streets.


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