The Iranian government, alarmed at the declining rate of marriage in the Islamic Republic, has announced it will officially launch a free online “matchmaking service” that officials insist is not a dating site. Unlike a dating site, users have no choice in who they are paired with upon subscribing to the service.
The Associated Press reports the site, hamsan.tebyan.net, launched on Monday and is encouraging single people to subscribe. “We have high demand for marriage and 11 million bachelors who are increasing every day,” said Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Mahmoud Golzari of the website, adding that it is “not a website for introducing boys and girls to each other.” Instead, the website will rely on a panel of “experts,” including religious scholars, doctors, and other professionals in each community, to sift through subscribers and match them for marriage.
The website explains the factors it uses to practice “conscious mate selection“: “1) religion and faith 2) values 3) Vitals 4) domestic jurisdiction 5) the economic characteristics 6) social features 7) psychological characteristics.”
The BBC notes that applications for the site ask users for age, marital status, parents’s occupations, and other social status qualifiers. It does not ask any questions that describe the users personality, such as taste in arts, music, film, or hobbies.
The site is run by the Islamic Development Organization and differs from a dating website in that users have no say in who they are matched with. They cannot browse the profiles of other users and are at the mercy of an assortment of “clerics and professionals of good standing in their communities” once they submit profile information. The Islamic Development Organization is hoping it can lower the nation’s rate of divorce—currently at 22 percent—by taking control of marriage out of the hands of individuals.
The government, the Daily Mail claims, tried the system in private for a year, resulting in 100 marriages out of 3,000 men and women introduced to each other. Iran hopes 100,000 marriages will occur thanks to the website in the next year.
The Iranian government applies strict Sharia law, and dating in the nation’s capital Tehran is a risky venture. A woman walking openly in the streets with a man who is not related to her could easily attract the attention of police officials. Nonetheless, young Iranians date furtively and have even found ways around firewalls that prevent computers from accessing dating sites.
One young Iranian, writing for The Guardian, detailed two dates he scheduled in Tehran using the dating app Tinder, which he notes was founded by two Iranian Americans. “Even though on several occasions I’d been stopped by the patrolling moral guidance authorities who questioned my relationship with the woman I’d been walking with, in many other ways dating is no longer as complicated as it once was,” he writes, noting that his dates, while unsuccessful in finding him a wife, were possible under Sharia law and that young Iranians have a desire to use services like Tinder, where they can browse other singles and choose with whom they wish to speak.