Procedure to launch an investigation against a divorced woman for unspecified acts constituting "immoral behaviour" related to her friendships with men; possible consequences of an accusation of "immoral behaviour;" whether sexual relations between people who are not married constitutes adultery [IRN29543.E]

The following information was provided to the Research Directorate by an Iranian lawyer based in London. An accusation of "immorality" (e.g. having male friends but not necessarily committing adultery) against a woman is usually expected to be accompanied by some evidence, for example, that she was with a certain man at a certain time. Then the man and the woman may both be arrested and questioned about the nature of their relationship. The lawyer does not believe that a simple telephone call to the authorities advising them that a certain woman has male friends would be sufficient cause for the authorities to arrest the woman. Typically an accusation of "immorality" is made against a person who has been accused of other crimes, such as drug dealing (29 June 1998).

The following information was provided to the Research Directorate by an Iranian lawyer who practices law in Iran. The lawyer believes that a divorced woman would probably not be arrested for "immorality" merely on the basis of an anonymous tip. If a person were to submit a written complaint to the authorities about a woman's alleged "immorality," an investigation would probably be launched by a prosecutor's office, but a woman would probably not be subject to search or arrest until the authorities were able to substantiate some of the claims made in the complaint, or unless the complainant made a very specific allegation, for example, that the woman would be found engaging in illicit sexual relations at a certain time in a certain place. A simple statement to the effect that the woman had a boyfriend would be unlikely to lead to an arrest. The lawyer said that the government agency that would deal with such complaints would likely be the bureau known as "Amr-e be-Marouf va Nahy-e be Monker" (Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue) (2 July 1998).

However, a professor of sociology at Concordia University in Montreal, who specializes in Iranian women's issues, told the Research Directorate that she believes that a simple telephone tip could be sufficient for the authorities to launch an investigation of "immorality" against a woman, adding that there have been cases in which women accused of "immoral behaviour" have been detained without even having been questioned (29 June 1998). Morality cases are often dealt with by a government ministry known as "Ershad," ("Irshad") or "Amr-e be Marouf va Nahy-e be Monker" (ibid.).

This was corroborated by a professor of political science at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, who informed the Research Directorate that

There is no fixed procedure for accusing a woman of "immoral behavior." Unfortunately, this can be done by a jealous husband, neighbor, relative, or friend. The burden of proof is on the accused. There is a bureau called "Amer-e be Marouf va Nahy-e be Monker" (Bureau for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue") that deals with a lot of these issues (23 June 1998).

Information on possible consequences of conviction on charges related to morality can be found in the compilation of documents entitled "Iran: Status of Women," prepared and distributed by the Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees and available at Regional Documentation Centres.

For information on the definition of adultery under Iranian law, please see the document attached to Response to Information Request IRN29552.E of 30 June 1998. For information on the penalty for "illicit sexual relations" but not adultery, please see Response to Information Request IRN29331.E of 8 May 1998.

For information on enforcement of morality laws in Iran, please see Response to Information Request IRN23175.E of 20 February 1996.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Iranian lawyer who practices law in Iran. 2 July 1998. Telephone interview.

Iranian lawyer who practices law in London. 29 June 1998. Telephone interview.

Professor of political science, Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama. 23 June 1998. E-mail communication.

Professor of sociology, Concordia University, Montreal. 29 June 1998. Telephone interview.