Iran launches official matchmaking website
Iran has launched its first official national matchmaking website, hamsan.tebyan.net, in a bid to encourage millions of single Iranians to marry.
It is not a "dating service", officials insisted.
"We have high demand for marriage and 11 million bachelors," said Mahmoud Golzari, deputy minister of youth affairs and sports, at the site's launch on Monday.
"The matchmaking website you are seeing today is not a website for introducing boys and girls to each other."
According to Associated Press, there are already some 350 private matchmaking websites, but the government had yet to throw their hat into the ring - until now.
Seemingly similar to other "matchmaking platforms", the Iranian website allows singles to post their profiles and specify what they are looking for in a potential spouse.
But, unlike the automated algorithms of the mainstream western services, the matches are made by a board of mediators who pair applicants after reviewing their age, education, wealth and family background.
Iranian youths have been increasingly opting out of marriage in recent years, due to the harsh economic conditions under sanctions alongside high social expectations, with young couples and their families expected to host extravagant traditional weddings, along with other expenses, such as wedding dresses and jewellery.
Falling birth rates
Years of the Iranian government's successful family-planning policies, including free contraception and state-funded vasectomies, seem to have backfired.
The country's population growth rates have plunged dramatically, raising concerns about the burden of an aging population on the state's social programmes.
Measured using the standard Total Fertility Rate - which indicates the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime, at the exact current age-specific fertility rates (ASFRs) through her lifetime, and assuming she survives from birth through the end of her reproductive life - there were seven births per woman in Iran in 1980.
That number had fallen to fewer than two per woman by 2014.
In March 2015, Amnesty International warned against the adoption of two proposed bills outlawing voluntary sterilisation and restricting access to contraceptives, a move deemed by the London-based human rights group as a "misguided attempt" to boost population growth.
The move was an attempt to reduce women to "baby-making machines", said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.