Sunday, March 11, 2007

Off-Topic: Shiite Temporary Marriages

I never expected the words Shiite and Iraq to appear on this blog. The Washington Post published Temporary 'Enjoyment Marriages' In Vogue Again With Some Iraqis back in January but I only found it today while researching something else entirely. Anyone familiar with Robert Heinlein's later novels may recognize some familiarity with this idea:

They met one afternoon in May at the house he shares with his wife, in the room where he accepts visitors seeking his religious counsel. He had a proposal. Would Ali be his temporary wife? He would pay her 5,000 Iraqi dinars upfront -- about $4 -- in addition to her monthly expenses. About twice a week over the next eight months, he would summon her to a house he would rent.

The negotiations took an hour and ended with an unwritten agreement, the couple recalled. Thus began their "mutaa," or enjoyment marriage, a temporary union believed by Shiite Muslims to be sanctioned by Islamic law.

The Shiite practice began 1,400 years ago, in what is now Iraq and other parts of the region, as a way to provide for war widows. Banned by President Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led government, it has regained popularity since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq brought the majority Shiites to power, said clerics, women's rights activists and mutaa spouses.
Sunnis and other call it a cover for prostitution. I thought it an interesting view into another system of marriage and another system of collecting child support and paternity.

Most mutaa contracts stipulate that no children be produced. If a woman were to become pregnant anyway, Islamic law would require the man to support the child, the sheiks said. But the clerics disagreed over how much power they have to impose that rule.

Rubae said the man who refuses his child would be whipped or even killed. "We as the sheiks should be sure this thing will stay legitimate," he said.

The article only barely touches on polygamy. Which does bring this back to Indiana. When the Indiana Court of Appeals heard the case of Morrison v. Sadler (the opinion in Word format here) regarding same-sex marriage in Indiana, Indiana's Attorney General argued in its Brief (which is in PDF format) that allowing same-sex marriages would lead to polygamy:
The prohibition against polygamy and first-cousin marriages for those
under 65, for example, might be vulnerable to attack if the prohibition against
same-sex marriage is declared invalid. One commentator observes that “[t]he Equal
Protection argument for same-sex marriage also applies to polygamy. The ban on
polygamy discriminates . . . against . . . bisexuals, who cannot act on their sexual
preference within marriage unless they can have multiple spouses.”
I never made the connection between same-sex marriage and polygamy before reading the Attorney General's Brief. At that time it brought to mind the persecution of the Mormons, but it also brought to mind a question I have not had time to research. What if a Muslim comes to the United States with more than one wife? I have no idea except that there is not enough time in the day for work and idle curiousity.

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