On Monday, Iran unveiled a “state” dating app designed to promote “lasting and conscious” marriages among young people. Indeed, the government is concerned about the rising divorce rate, the decline in births and the aging of the population.
The application, as reported by state TV, is called “Hamdam”, which means “life partner”, and was developed by the Tebyan Cultural Institute, a body linked to the government. During his presentation it was explained that in order to register, users must verify their identity and pass a psychological test. When the app identifies a compatibility (“match”) between two members – obviously of the opposite sex, homosexuality being illegal in Iran -, it proposes the presentation of the respective families in the presence of a special consultant in charge of “accompanying” the couple for the four years following the marriage.
“Hamdam” can be registered for free: without further details being provided, it was explained that it has “an independent revenue model”.
Ali Mohammad Rajabi, the head of the Iranian police in charge of controlling the Internet, clarified that “Hamdam” is the only app of this type to be legal within the Islamic Republic (in Iran there has been a theocracy since 1979, the year of revolution): all other dating apps are illegal. The head of Tebyan, Komeil Khojasteh, in turn declared that there are “external forces” that threaten the values of the family. The app’s goal, he said, is to create “healthy” families.
There are 13 million young single people aged 18 to 35 in Iran, and sexual intercourse before marriage is theoretically illegal in the country. In 2019, there were more than 170,000 divorces and around 520,000 marriages. Also in 2019, births decreased compared to the previous three years, and the birth rate was 1.8 children per woman, down compared to the 2017 data (2.07 children per woman).
The creation of a state dating app is part of the government’s efforts to avoid population aging and to increase the declining birth rate, phenomena that according to the most conservative part of the country are due to the cultural and social influence of the country. West. The problem has also been raised several times by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, a powerful ultraconservative cleric to whom all the most traditionalist fringes of Iranian politics refer.
Last March, the Iranian parliament approved a bill called “Population Growth and Support for Families”, which committed the government to offer significant financial incentives to those who marry, and provided, among other things, housing for women. couples who have more than two children. The law now awaits the approval of the Guardian Council, a body that has the task of verifying that the proposal is compatible with Islamic law and the Iranian Constitution. However, it has been heavily criticized by women’s movements, because it would be a plan to “keep women at home”, to limit their influence in the protests against the regime, to strengthen state control over online dating apps, to monitor the sale of abortion drugs or online consultation of abortion information.