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Iran: Amendment to New Family Law Makes Bigamy Rare

(Aug. 31, 2009) On September 8, 2008, the Judicial Committee of the Iranian Parliament's House of Representatives voted to delete two articles from the Family Protection Bill, including one on polygamy. Under article 23 of the bill as presented by the government to the House, a man wishing to marry a second wife would have had to prove simply: first, that he was financially able to pay for the maintenance of the new wife and, second, that he would treat both wives fairly. Under these conditions, a married man could obtain a family court's permission to marry a second wife. The Judicial Committee of the House removed this article from the bill, along with article 25, which imposed taxes on the dowry. Dowry is money or property that a groom pledges to the bride, which she can claim at any time during the marriage or if there is a divorce. The two articles reflect the existing law on polygamy in Iran.

According to the judiciary, which originally drafted the bill, the two disputed articles had been added by the government. Amin Rahimi, the Judicial Committee spokesman, stated that the Parliament Speaker, Ali Larijani, ordered removal of the provisions following protests against the articles by clerics, other religious personages, and women. Polygamy is still rare in Iran in comparison with some other Muslim countries, and β€œis frowned upon by many,” so that the bill sparked strong criticism. Moreover, β€œ[m]any women, regardless of their reformist or conservative leanings, slammed the bill, saying it paves the way for rich men to take a second wife and 'threatens the foundation and sanctity of the family.'” (MPs Amend Bigamy Bill [in English], TEHRAN FARS NEWS AGENCY [KHABARGOZARI-YE FARS], Sept. 9, 2008, World News Connection online subscription database, NewsEdge Document No. 200809091477.1_6e1c003e1a90e252.)

The family protection bill has apparently still not been passed by the House of Representatives. (Information received by telephone from the Iranian House of Representatives, Aug. 2009.)