Population crisis, marriage reform and the regulation of male sexuality in interwar Iran

Sivan Balslev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Beginning in the early twentieth century, a discourse on population crisis emerged in the Iranian press. Iran, it was argued, suffered from a small and sickly population, and therefore was unable to fully exploit its natural riches and resources. One suggested solution to the problem was a reformation of the traditional model of marriage, making monogamous, age-appropriate marriage the new norm. This was to provide Iran with numerous robust future citizens, the result of healthy and suitable couples. The article presents the process in which fear of population decline led to a change in the perceptions of ‘proper’ male sexuality, of married life and of love in Iran. It shows how this process influenced gender relations and social relations, preserving women’s subjugation within companionate marriage and constructing men of social groups who practised polygamy and child marriage as corrupt and unpatriotic, unlike Western-educated elite men who adopted companionate marriage.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)121-137
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 British Society for Middle Eastern Studies.


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