Following the approval of a parliamentary bill that would increase the amount of marriage loans for girls under 23 years of age, Iranian officials and activists warned child marriages would increase.
Rahim Zar’e, the Spokesperson for the Budget Merge Committee in Iran’s Parliament said before this that marriage loans, once 50 million tomans, has increased to 70 million tomans and that “boys under 25 and girls under 23 would receive 100 million tomans (around $4000) each.”
According to the state-run ISNA News Agency, the Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth, Mohammad Mehdi Tondgouyan said the loan would not help decrease the age of marriage but would encourage child marriages.
“According to our statistics, taking into consideration acceptable economic, housing and employment circumstances, the best age of marriage according to men is more than 26 years and more than 24 years for women,” said the Deputy Minister.
Tondgouyan added that increasing the marriage loan would only increase (moral) “deviations” and the number of “superficial marriages and divorces”, since people will be encouraged to go through marriage only to receive the loan.
The Iranian official also questioned why the 100 million toman loan was only given to women under 23 years of age and men under 25.
“Inflation and economic as well as housing and employment problems plague all ages,” he said.
“Some born in the 1980s are still single due to economic problems and this decision will be less convenient for them,” Tondgouyan added.
The Ministry of Sports and Youth had warned last year that the increase of marriage loans in 2018 and 2019 caused an increase in child marriages for those under 15 years of age.
“Two-thirds of the applicants for these loans were young women under 18 years, and this is tantamount to forced marriages,” he added.
A children’s rights activist, Tita Ghozati, also said increasing the marriage loan would lead to early marriages.
Ghozati said early marriages were caused by poverty and drug addictions.
“In such cases, families prefer child marriages to child labor, as it will have better conditions for the child,” Ghozati said.
“The proportion of early marriages is usually higher in non-urban and poverty-stricken areas. This shows that cultural changes and improvement in economic and social education will lower child marriages,” the activist added.
According to the Statistical Center of Iran there were 7,000 girls under 14 years of age married in the first three months of the Persian Calendar in 2020 (March, April, May).
Iran’s parliament has continuously rejected a bill proposing to increase the marriage age for children.
The so-called “child spouse” bill, introduced into parliament in 2016, proposed an absolute ban on the marriage of Iranian girls under age 13 and an absolute ban for the marriage of boys under 16.
According to member of Parliament Hassan Nourozi, who is a staunch supporter of the rejection of the bill, the bill has “problems”.
“In our opinion, there are some problems in the proposed bill because many of the criteria are not acceptable. According to the representatives in the Legal Commission, a 15-year-old girl is not considered a child … and is fit to marry,” the cleric said.
Nourozi said that according to sharia laws, Qom jurisprudence, and Iranian and Lebanese experts, a girl goes into puberty at 9 years of age and can be considered fit to marry.
This is while child marriages have dire consequences for child brides including child pregnancy, death from childbirth, depression and sometimes suicide in addition to divorce and lack of education.
The UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child has banned child marriages.
Child marriage or marriage without the free and full consent of both spouses is a human rights violation and is not in line with several international agreements including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage, and Registration of Marriage. According to UNICEF, around 39,000 girls under 18 marry every day around the world.