ANKARA - Iran's hardline judiciary has banned a magazine for encouraging cohabitation, known as "white marriage" in the Islamic Republic where sex outside wedlock is a crime, the Shargh newspaper reported on Monday.
Under Iran's sharia-based laws, imposed after the 1979 Islamic revolution, extramarital sex is punishable by flogging. In cases of adultery, it can carry a sentence of death by stoning.
Last year, the monthly Zanan-e Emrouz (Today's Women) published a special issue discussing various aspects of the "white marriage" and the reasons behind what it said was the increasing number of unmarried Iranian couples living together.
"The press watchdog banned Zanan-e Emrouz monthly today for encouraging and justifying 'white marriage'," Shargh reported.
The office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year ordered officials to clamp down on cohabitation in Iran. Hardline clerical rulers have criticised the practice as an "ominous marriage" that shamefully flouts Islamic values.
Iran's Youth Affairs and Sports Ministry officials have blamed the media for fueling interest in "white marriage".
Iranian law makes it more difficult for a woman to obtain a divorce than a man, which may be behind the cohabitation trend. Officials deny this discriminates against women, saying it is simply the application of sharia rules.
According to Iranian media, around 20 per cent of marriages in Iran end in divorce, mainly because of economic hardship, adultery and drug addiction.
While disapproving of cohabitation, Iran allows the traditional Shi'ite temporary marriage or "sigheh", under which a couple can contract a marriage lasting anywhere from a few minutes to 99 years.
Iranian rights activists have criticised this option as disrespectful of women.