By Mansoureh Galestan
At least 98 child marriages have been recorded in one Iranian province in the last nine months, according to the Director General of Ilam’s Welfare Organization.
Zahra Hemmati told the state-run IRNA news agency on Tuesday that 98 children under the age of 15 – 94 girls and four boys – have been married in Ilam province since May 2018.
This does not account for children aged between 15 and 18 or marriages that were not officially recorded, which means that the situation could be much worse. And that is just in one province.
Back in January, shortly after the Iranian Parliament’s Judicial Committee rejected the proposal to increase the marriage age for girls to 15, Parvaneh Salahshouri, head of the women’s faction in the regime’s parliament, said that 6% of all Iranian girls get married between 10 and 14.
Currently, the legal age of marriage for girls in Iran is 13. According to regime officials and experts, some 180,000 child marriages take place every year. This accounts for roughly 24% of all marriages. One expert said that 41,000 marriages involve a child under the age of 15. There are also 24,000 widows under 18, of which 15,000 are under 15.
In 2017, at least 37,000 Iranian girls aged 10-14 were recorded as married and 17% of all girls in Iran were married before age 18. This did not include “temporary marriages”, which are a growing problem in Iran.
In the past ten years, almost 400,000 girls under the age of 15 were forced to marry in Iran.
It is worth noting that child marriages are banned under the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage, and Registration of Marriage. It is a form of child abuse and, for girls, it is considered an act of violence against women.
The children subjected to this, most often girls, often suffer severe mental, physical, and psychological trauma as a result, but it has been legalised by the Iranian Regime. It has even been encouraged by Iranian state media, most recently with the launch of a TV series that has been bashed by Iranians on social media using the Farsi hashtag “no to child marriages”.
Four victims of child marriage spoke to Hamshahri Daily about their experiences as child brides and the horrific things that happened.
Nazi Jamalzadeh said that she was forced to marry a 22-year-old man at aged 12, who ordered her about. She said the worst part though was being separated from her mother. She recounts walking an hour in the cold and snow every day to see her mother, but when she got there her father would scold her for leaving the house without her husband’s permission and prevent her from seeing her mother.
She said: “After a year, I attempted suicide which I had learned from the women in the village.”
Her husband took her to the hospital but beat her after she was released for humiliating him. Then he divorced her.
Soon after, her father forced her to marry a man in his 40s, who had children that were around her age, and she recalls that when they would do their homework she wished to join them and earn as well.
Ashraf Akhlaghi was married at 13, had her first baby at 14, and her second at 16. The second child had seizures from the start, but because of her age, she didn’t know what to do and now the baby is “mentally handicapped”, something that she says she will never forgive herself for.
Razieh married a man in his early 20s when she was just 13, despite the fact that she would rather have waited to finish her studies. But, she laments, everyone there marries early and the girls that don’t are assumed to have something wrong with them.
She said: “We have no other choice.”