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Iran: Role of Mahr in Two Cases

(June 21, 2010) Under Islamic law, one of the requirements of a marriage contract is that the man has to make a gift of money or property to the woman; this gift is called mahr. This condition is incorporated in the Iranian Civil Law, but it is not a requirement under that code, as a marriage could be contracted without reference to mahr. The Civil Law, however, stipulates that the woman becomes the owner of the gift immediately upon conclusion of the marriage and that the man has to provide it upon demand by the woman. Two recent Iranian cases illustrate the role that mahr may play in marital disputes.

A woman appeared before a family court judge in Tehran and pleaded that her husband should deliver the mahr, which, as had been agreed upon at the time of the marriage, was 100 kilos of flies' wings. Such unusual terms are sometimes included in marriage agreements to make divorce more difficult. The petitioner, age 25, did not request a divorce, due to there being a child of the marriage. In support of her demand to receive her marriage gift, she claimed that her husband is a heroin addict, spending all his income to pay for drugs. She added that if the court enforced the stipulation stated in the marriage contract regarding the delivery of the mahr, he might be encouraged to stop his drug addiction. The 30-year-old husband agreed to provide the mahr, and the judge issued an order that the woman's demand for enforcement of the mahr be executed. (Husband Ordered to Deliver 100 Kilos of Flies' Wings, Iran Times International [Persian edition], June 11, 2010, at 9.)

In a separate case, a man of 28 presented a complaint to the judge of Family Court No. 240 in Tehran and made the following statement before the judge: “[w]e have been living as husband and wife for almost four years. From the very beginning of our marital life my wife has insisted that I should wear fashionable and unusual clothing, which I refuse to do. I have my own style and I am not going to change.” (Id.) The woman also presented her case, saying,”[w]e disagreed on this issue from the very beginning of our conjugal life. I am appealing to Your Honor to issue an order to enforce the amount of my mahr, which is valued at 14,000 U.S. dollars, and to pay it to me. I am suffering.” (Id.) Following the presentation of their case, the two parties agreed to divorce, and the court issued a divorce order as well as an order that the man must pay the amount of the mahr to the woman. (Id.)