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Temporary 'Enjoyment Marriages' In Vogue Again With Some Iraqis

Most mutaa contracts stipulate that no children be produced. If a woman were to become pregnant anyway, Islamic law would require the man to support the child, the sheiks said. But the clerics disagreed over how much power they have to impose that rule.

Rubae said the man who refuses his child would be whipped or even killed. "We as the sheiks should be sure this thing will stay legitimate," he said.

Shareef, the sheik from Hilla, said some men take advantage of their rights under religious law but refuse to accept their responsibility when a child is born. In some of those cases, he said, a sharia court, using Islamic law, is not as effective as a secular court in enforcing the rules.

"I am supporting the idea of the government regulating mutaa marriages, just like the permanent marriages, so these man cannot run away," he said. "Otherwise the women are losing their rights."

Um Akram, the women's rights activist in Baghdad, said more women are asking her organization for help in getting national identification cards for children born of mutaa relationships. Parents must present a marriage certificate to obtain the identification cards, which are required by schools and employers.

Um Akram said some single women have given up their children for adoption to married couples who can use their marriage certificates to register them.

"The men just hit and run, and they don't want to have a family," she said. "The children are paying the price."

Ali and Rubae agreed not to have children. They simply wanted to enjoy each other.

On the days he could see her, he gave her flowers, perfume, clothing and a watch. They had meals together. Sometimes he could spend the whole day with her. Other times, just five or six hours.

Ali said she cried when the marriage ended early last week. "It's just like a permanent marriage," she said. "When he leaves, I become sad."

Her sorrow did not last long. Rubae said Jan. 12 that he had decided to marry her again. This time, he said, he would marry her for a year, enough time for his wife to fully recover from childbirth.

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