By Hossein Beizayi
Child marriage, or early marriage, is any marriage where at least one of the parties is under 18 years of age. Forced marriages are marriages in which one and/or both parties have not personally expressed their full and free consent to the union. Child marriage is considered to be a form of forced marriage, given that one and/or both parties have not expressed full, free, and informed consent. Child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM) is a human rights violation and a harmful practice that disproportionately affects women and girls globally, preventing them from living their lives free from all forms of violence. CEFM threatens the lives and futures of girls and women around the world, robbing them of their agency to make decisions about their lives, disrupting their education, making them more vulnerable to violence, discrimination, and abuse, and preventing their full participation in economic, political and social spheres.
Appalling statistics about child marriage in Iran
Data from the Statistics Center of Iran show that in the past five years, more than 131,000 girls under the age of 15 have been married, of which more than 7,500 were married last summer. According to a report by the state-run Tejarat News website on March 29, the Statistics Center of Iran has disclosed that since 2017, an average of 30,000 girls under 15 get married annually. The report said 123 boys under 15 also got married in the past five years. Earlier, the Statistics Center of Iran reported a 10.5 percent increase in the marriage rate of girls aged 10 to 14 in 2020 compared to the previous year.
791 children born to mothers aged 10 to 14 in the Persian year 1400
Earlier, ISNA wrote in a report on child marriage that according to the preliminary statistics of the number of births in the Persian year 1400, last year, (according to the age of the mother at birth) published by the National Registry, in the first six months and 16 days of 1400, 791 children were born to mothers that were 10 to 14 years old.
Child marriage in Iran is not a cultural matter or issue. Like many other social and economic shortfalls and catastrophes of the mullah’s regime, child marriage is the result of an incapable and corrupt regime in which human rights, human dignity, children’s rights, and the future of Iran has no place in its ideology and practice. The Iranian regime, its leaders, and parliament have steadfastly refused to ban or criminalize early marriages. Contrarily, child marriage is encouraged in media, Friday prayers, mosques, and religious classes and institutions. It was around 2018 that the deputies of the 10th parliament, in a plan called “Prohibition of Child Marriage,” tried to reduce the minimum age of marriage for girls to 16 years and boys to 18 years, and the prohibition of marriage for girls under 13 years. The move proved to be just a show and did not gain approval. Despite broad societal condemnation of the practice, clerics, conservative lawmakers, and other state officials continue to block attempts to raise the minimum marriageable age in Iran, and each year tens of thousands of girls under the age of 15 are married off by their families each year in Iran, according to state statistics. In reality, the numbers are likely much higher as many families in Iran do not register underage marriages.
Reasons for child marriages in Iran
One major reason for the rise in underage marriages is the rampant poverty in Iran, an outcome of the clerical regime’s plunder of the national wealth that has primarily contributed to this misogynous phenomenon. In the current economic crisis, where poor families struggle to take care of children, early marriage is an option to take care of this problem. The child becoming a spouse occurs in a culture in which the daughter is known as the burden to the family, who must go to her husband’s house as soon as possible and hand over the responsibility to someone else. To add to this, there are government loans available and a state cash grant of around $400 for marrying couples, which acts as an additional incentive.
There are also many reports from officials and media of parents receiving money for agreeing to wed underage girls, often to far older men. The vice-president responsible for women’s affairs, Ansiyeh Khazali, who does not oppose all underage marriage, recently said that money played a significant role.
In addition, other factors, such as the court’s permission to marry or the granting of a marriage loan, are among the factors that facilitate child marriage and show that child marriage is formally accepted and approved in Iran.
Warnings from experts in Iran
Dr. Simin Kazemi, sociologist, and member of the Department of Medical Sociology and Health of the Iranian Sociological Association, believes that part of child marriage is a transaction and agreement between the child’s parents and the husband that is done only legally and is not officially registered. There is no supervision over it, and the number of marriages that have taken place in this way is not known or recorded. Kazemi stated that the marriage of children definitely has negative and irreversible consequences physically, psychologically, and socially regarding childbirth’s health and physical risks: In a cultural situation where child marriage is acceptable, children are immediately pressured to have children in the first year after marriage. This early pregnancy and childbirth threaten the health of the mother.
Suicides and self-immolations
Self-immolation and suicide of the victims of early marriages make headlines in Iran from time to time. The physical and psychological damage caused by child marriage inflicts irreparable damage on the lives of these children, including pregnancy under the age of 18, maternal mortality, depression, suicide attempts, divorce, school dropouts, and the persistence of a cycle of cultural and economic poverty. On January 20, a 16-year-old girl, who was also a victim of early marriage, set herself on fire. The teenager was from Delgan city in Sistan and Baluchestan province, and her family had forced her to marry a 40-year-old man.
Meanwhile, “honor killings” continue to occur in Iran, with at least seven children and women known to be murdered in this manner in the past two years in Iran. Their names are Romina Ashrafi (13), Shakiba Bakhtiar (16), Mobina Souri (16), Faezeh Maleki (21), and Reyhaneh Ameri (22), and Fatemeh Farhi (19).
We are talking about a human being, a person who was born once and lives only once. Human beings have fundamental rights. One of the most important human rights is the right to marry and form a family. The person who wants to get married has the right to choose. Her consent must be respected and sought, and no one can force her to marry reluctantly. This is exactly what is not happening in Iran under the mullahs. In the misogynist minds of these mullahs, women are an instrument of sexual amusement and nothing more.
Besides the grim reality mentioned above, the women of Iran have proved their resilience and discontent with the anti-feminist regime of the mullahs. Their astonishing presence in recent anti-regime protests and demonstrations has been distasteful news for the regime. The women of Iran are destined to bury this regime with all its anti-feminist laws and restrictions once and for all.