By Staff Writer
The legal age of marriage in Iran is 13 for girls and 15 for boys. However, the Civil Law allows even younger children to get married, given the consent of parents and the court.
Due to the poor culture and economy of Iran, especially its villages, thousands of children are getting married at very young ages, therefore, missing out on their precious childhood.
Masoume Aghapour-Alishahi, the Representative of Women at the Parliament, discussed this issue with ‘Khane Melat’ website; In this conversation, which was published on 16th May, she reported that there are currently 24000 widowed children, under the age of 18, in Iran.
Alishahi considers the deprivation of culture and economy in Iran’s villages as the main cause of child-marriages, majority of which end up in divorce; and explains: “Unfortunately, due to the absence of secondary and tertiary schools in our villages, girls are unable to continue their education beyond the primary level; and are consequently forced by their parents to get married”.
The highest rates of child-marriage (i.e., for 10-15 year-olds), belong to the provinces of Razavi Khorasan and East Azerbaijan, respectively.
According to Alishahi, the economic deterioration of villages is so severe that some families make their “daughters aged 9-10 years” marry, “just to earn some money and afford basic living costs “.
After some time passes from their marriage, these children are then pressured to reproduce; so, they get pregnant before reaching full puberty, when their body is still growing. The premature pregnancy subsequently causes them serious physical issues (such as those relating delivery or breastfeeding), as well as mental ones. Consequently, abortion (which sometimes costs them their lives) is a growing concern amongst these young mothers.
Alishahi highlights another problem that these children also face with; and describes that adults “can take advantage of these children for sexual pleasure or for other unethical intentions such as drug smuggling”.
In an episode of a popular Iranian TV show, which is amongst the top most-watched in the past few years, one of the characters talks about proposing to two little girls of the show, aged 12 and 13; which is treated as a laughing matter in its other episodes too.
Following the broadcast of this show, the director of the Protection of Children’s Rights Committee, Farshid Yazdani, expressed his opinion in this regard, in an interview with ‘Faravar’ website; he stated that the National Television’s release of such shows proves that the regime promotes violence against children, and that: “Whilst the National Organisation for Civil Registration reports of nearly 13000 widowed children in 2015 alone, our country’s National Television is promoting violence against our children, by covering child-marriage in its popular shows like Paytakht”
This TV show was supported by “Owj”, a media corporation that affiliates with the Revolutionary Guard Corps, and had previously engaged in various advertisements; for instance, for the installation of governmental billboards, production of pro-nuclear animations, and conduction of activities against western sanctions.
The Children Right’s activists believe that the actual number of married children is much higher than that presented by the marriage registries of Iran; because, many children don’t have birth certificates, and many are also involved in polygamies, in other words, not all marriages get properly registered.
Saeed Peyvandi, a sociologist based in France, considers child-marriage as one of the greatest harms that society can do to its children and youths; he regards the reported numbers of the past few years, a very serious concern for all.
According to Peyvandi, allowing such marriages is society’s direct act of violence towards this particular age-group; he believes that social, intellectual, and psychological maturity, are some of the characteristics that everyone inevitably require, in order to make sound decisions for their personal and social lives; and that, children who get married at such young ages clearly lack those traits and therefore, struggle with many challenges which are always accompanied by detrimental psychological consequences.
Many of these children are completely dependent on their husbands for financial matters, and for that reason, they always feel insecure in life. Besides, majority of these children are married to drug addicts, and as a result, usually end up addicted themselves.
Children’s Rights activists also talk about the intense mental pressures that widowed children (e.g., 12-year old girls who lose or separate from their spouse at the age of 13 or 14) must deal with; sometimes, in an attempt to escape from domestic violence, children sadly end up becoming the victim of all other kinds of violence.
As Saieed Peyvandi says, a society that fails to provide favourable living standards for its future generation, will certainly face major issues in time. In such a society, unfair cycles like this will never end, as one class will always be disadvantaged and crushed under violence.