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The BBC investigation discovered that clerics are grooming vulnerable girls in Iraq and offering them for sex, using a controversial religious practice known as “pleasure marriage.”
Nikah mut'ah — which literally means "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 (mandatory payment) 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.
An undercover reporter received tips that some clerics were performing short-term mutaa [pleasure] marriages, a practice – illegal under Iraqi law – whereby a man can pay for a temporary wife, with the officiating cleric receiving a cut.
One teenage girl, Rusul, has been married many times. Her last marriage lasted just three hours. When the first man proposed Rusul, she was actually in love with him. The ceremony itself was brief - the cleric recited a few words, asked her whether she agreed with the $250 [£200] dowry she would receive and presented her with the contract. Rusul couldn’t read, but even if she could she might not have realized anything was amiss.
After just a few weeks her husband disappeared, because it was a special type of Islamic marriage - a “zawaj al-mutaa” or “pleasure marriage” - and that it was a way of allowing religiously approved sex. Hers had now expired.
“The cleric became a middle man, giving me work, and I had no choice but to follow that road,” she says. She also says the cleric provides her with contraceptive injections to ensure she doesn't get pregnant. “This is something that is very widespread. There are many girls like me.”
As the BBC reports, they approached Ayatollah Sistani’s office in the holy city of Najaf with the reporter’s evidence, and asked him to clarify his stance on mutaa marriages.
“If these practices are happening in the way you are saying then we condemn them unreservedly,” his office said. “Temporary marriage is not allowed as a tool to sell sex in a way that belittles the dignity and humanity of women.
“A guardian of a girl should not permit her marriage without her consent… and she is not supposed to marry if it’s against the law, which could bring troubles to her.”
Obviously, by forcing teenage girls into temporary marriages, Shia clerics in Baghdad only make a front for child prostitution and advise men on how to abuse girls.