The Documentary Podcast
Undercover with the clerics: Iraq’s secret sex trade
Muslim men and women are forbidden to sleep together outside marriage, but in Iraq, it’s possible for men to find a way round this obstacle to sexual freedom through a deeply controversial custom. So-called 'pleasure marriages' allow time-limited wedlock, sometimes for as little as half an hour, and with no commitment whatsoever. The practice is illegal, though some Shi’a clerics nevertheless claim it is permitted under Sharia, and offer to oversee pleasure marriages in return for payment.
As Nawal al-Maghafi of BBC Arabic discovers in this disturbing story, the clerics’ lucrative business comes at enormous personal cost to many women, who are often tricked and coerced into marrying, only to be dumped shortly afterwards. Worse, their life-chances and even their lives are put at risk, because virginity is a prerequisite for proper marriage. Using undercover reporting and secret recording, the programme also finds clerics willing to supply women for sex, and even to officiate for men who want to have sex with children.