Mohsen Esmaili, Director-General of Identity Documents of the Iran National Organisation for Civil Registrations, recently announced that men can delete the name of their ex-wives from their ID cards if they marry a second time, but for women, there is a complicated condition which makes it, in practice, impossible.

According to Esmaili, women can delete the name of their ex-husband but only if “they have not lived together and they are a virgin”.

I know it sounds confusing. How can someone be married, without being in a sexual relationship, without living with their spouse?

Female virginity is still really important for a large number of families in Iran. Traditionally, regardless of how sexually experienced men might be, Iranian girls have to save their virginity for marriage, even with hymen reconstruction surgery!

Some Iranian religious and conservative families, especially those who live in smaller cities, believe that any physical contact between members of the opposite sex, such as shaking hands or holding hands is a “big sin”. In their opinion, girls and boys should avoid any physical contact during the engagement. Therefore, they use Islamic marriage (Aghd), which is the official marriage in Iran, as a tool to help young couple to get to know each other better.

Although the couple is technically married, they do not live together and some of them (based on family traditions) are not allowed to have sexual experiences until their wedding ceremony, which is the starting point of their life together.

In summary, the recent announcement suggests that these women, who are officially and religiously married but still do not live with their husbands - who have saved their virginity and remain untouched - are equal with men who've lived with other women or had sexual experiences. In other words, if a marriage (Aghd), which is similar to an engagement period, does not work out and the woman has already lost her virginity, she has to live with the name of her ex-husband on her identity card for the rest of her life.

This article has been published on The News Hub