ON A DUSTY MORNING in the holy city of Qom, I went looking for a shrine in a walled cemetery of martyrs known as Sheikhan. The graveyard's walls are lined with glass cases containing the framed photos of soldiers felled by the Iran-Iraq war. The shrine, I'd been told, is a hangout for women seeking temporary marriage, an intriguing mechanism in Shiite Islam for relieving sexual frustration. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, sex outside of marriage is a crime, punishable by up to 100 lashes or, in the case of adultery, death by stoning. Yet the purpose of a temporary marriage is clear from its name in Arabic–mut'a, pleasure. A man and a woman may contract a mut'a for a finite period of time–from minutes to 99 years or more–and for a specific amount, mehr in Farsi, which the man owes the woman.
Interesting throughout, from Mother Jones.