Prostitution in Iran (An Interview with Professor Mohammad Hossein Farjad)

Entekhab (Persian Morning Daily)
Tuesday, June 11, 2002, Vol. 4, No. 898
By: Arezoo Pak
Word Count: 1460

Summary: Prostitution, also known as street harlotry, has peaked in Iran over the past years to the extent that even the state radio and television are extensively talking about this sinister phenomenon. Although conflicting, statistics released about the prostitutes are stunning. Mohammad Hussein Farjad, university professor with specialty in social traumas, talks about prostitution and its dimensions in Iran.


Q: Would you please tell us your definition of "prostitution"?

A: "Prostitution" is an anti-social phenomenon threatening the health of the individual, family and the whole society. It can precipitously pounce on the society if it is not precisely identified and thought a remedy for.

Q: Who is called a "prostitute"?

A: A prostitute is a person who offers herself/himself for illicit sex for a period of time to gain money, status or other facilities.

Q: As for the background of this anti-social phenomenon, I have heard that the tragedy of prostitution dates back to 650 B.C. Many years ago there used to be a Japanese district with 256 brothels housing some 4,000 hookers. Would you please tell us of the background of prostitution in our own country?

A: Prostitution has doubtlessly been practiced in Iran since many years ago, ranging from the Safavid, Qajar and Pahlavi eras until now. It is an inevitable phenomenon under way in Tehran within the form of call girls, street harlots and revelers' centers. Unfortunately, I have to say that we cannot finger someone special as a prostitute. As I said under special circumstances someone may offer herself/himself for sexual relations to gain money. We can even witness this phenomenon in high positions.

Q: What is the most significant consequence of this anti-social phenomenon?

A: It hinders the family structure since the customers of prostitutes are not necessarily single and even married people are entrapped by this social trauma. Once the family structure is hindered, social structure is also hampered because the family is the smallest social unit evolving into society.

Q: What do you think are the main reasons behind prostitution?

A: The individual herself/himself, the family and the society all can bring about this phenomenon. Sometimes, mental disorders in men or women lay the groundwork for the scourge of prostitution. In our country, unbridled divorces, running away of the girls, bickering and finally rudeness clear the way for prostitution.

Q: But some analysts are of the view that "poverty and illiteracy" constitute the main reasons behind prostitution. However, some time ago, a 60-member prostitution ring was broken up in Tehran with all its members from the well-off districts and three state officials were also among the detainees. As an expert at social traumas, how do you justify these conflicting views?

A: I am opposed to such a view because many are poor but make a living without losing face and therefore poverty does not lead to prostitution and cultural contradictions are important. Also, proper grounds for sexual relations, unbridled sex appeal and even social welfare may result in prostitution.

Q: Anyhow, is there any solution to prostitution misleading women to an impasse in their lives?

A: The society should conduct scientific research based on strong methodology to find results and then offer guidelines for prevention. Of course, from the clinical psychology point of view, we can avoid it from being spread through orientation and employment. I should reiterate here that prostitution is not confined to women and men too may become prostitute. Some men have sex with more than one person and sometimes they are paid for offering their body!

Q: Now that you have included men in your definition of prostitution, don't you think that we have to change the views and minds to resolve this problem?

A: One hundred percent! That is when the social views change and it can lay the groundwork for job opportunities, and family and individual orientation by experts. Meanwhile, we should not forget scientific research as such measures can help drive corruption out of the society.

Q: We may have forgotten that we live in a society with unstable "oral culture". So how can we set out?

A: Research cannot bring about positive results alone. In a society with the so-called "oral culture" the state media shoulder heavy burdens but they refuse to fulfill their commitments.

Q: You touched on radio and television. Some people link all moral lapses to the mass media and say the electronic devices have been brought into our country from the West and our society has faced a crisis involuntarily. What is your view and how can we reverse the growing trend of moral corruption in the society?

A: It is correct to say that mass media like radio, television and satellites constitute part of a culture but all of these can be a topic for research. Clash of cultures can lead to compatibility and even prostitution but I recommend scientific research for reversing the growing trend of corruption.

Q: Aren't your views pessimistic?

A: Of course they are.

Q: Why are you downbeat?

A: Look! Our society can be reformed and therefore empty seminars and theoretical debates may lead to pessimism among the people instead of bearing scientific results.

Q: Now tell us what will happen in the future. Can highlighting the vices resolve the problems or not?

A: The future depends on the people and the authorities and their mutual trust. We should wait and see how the self-declared sympathizers deal with such issues at the root.

Q: Our world is getting more populated and more complicated. What do you recommend for controlling the stimulation of the younger generation that may be entrapped by corruption?

A: The City Hall in the megalopolis, home to the highest percentage of sexual corruption, should air music and stage plays and films in the cultural centers constructed thanks to people's assistance and invite the youth to attend such programs. It may help abate their sexual stimulation. The youth and youngsters, aged between 12 and 18, are at the peak of puberty and their energy should be discharged positively. Unfortunately, parents think that silent children who are scientifically sick are efficient and instead blame the boisterous children who are scientifically healthy. So, we should tell the parents of such issues to know that rude behaviors of the children are natural at the peak of puberty age.

Q: Now we get back to our main point of discussion, that is the anti-social phenomenon. Studies indicate that some prostitutes do not offer themselves for sex out of passion only and sometimes they intend to link themselves to a rich person for a period of time. What shall we do then?

A: A woman who lacks any family or social backing and can be satisfied by neither family nor the society intends to opt for prostitution. But sometimes, shenanigans and skullduggery are the main factors and sometimes poverty and unemployment. If we manage to meet the people's emotional needs after their economic needs, we would see this phenomenon declining.

Q: Prostitution is the major reason for AIDS as well as propagation of depravity and transmission of certain diseases although AIDS may be transmitted through contaminated syringes as well. How can we deal with this problem?

A: We should believe in prostitution as a factual reality. Spread of AIDS and sexual diseases should not be connected to contaminated syringes only because publishing news on arrest of runners of brothels would definitely unravel the facts. Therefore we have to supervise this issue meticulously to resolve this crisis. It is not good for us to see foreign news agencies and experts well aware of sexual relations and the number of those arrested while we try to deceive ourselves by inculcating wrong statistics into the minds of the people.

Q: So, prostitution is a serious problem?

A: Exactly

Q: Where do we stand in the diagram of global prostitution?

A: I can say that expansion of urbanization is leading to more prostitution. So, the figures change with social and economic ups and downs. For example, between 1973 and 1974 a book entitled "Prostitution in Tehran" was published providing good results but they are no more useful as the social and economic conditions have changed. A new research is recommended for this purpose.

Q: What other research activities have been carried out for identifying the scourge of prostitution?

A: We prefer not to publish the figures to have a healthier society. Figures should be released when serious research is conducted otherwise...!

Q: You are evading a clear answer!

A: I said what I had to say.

Q: Thank you.

Related Links
Iran Women

Front Page