Hundreds of Activists Urge Iranian Parliament to Ban Child Marriage

Hundreds of Iranian women and children’s rights advocates in Iran are urging Parliament to prohibit underage marriage in the country.

“In defense of children’s human rights, we call for an end to the phenomenon known as child spouses,” read a statement signed by more than 800 activists addressing members of Parliament on August 12, Payvand informs.

“Marriage at a young age, which is currently spreading at an alarming rate all over Iran, is an example of child abuse and a violation of children’s rights, especially little girls,” added the statement. “By ignoring the harm caused by this phenomenon, the Civil Code, in its present form, is perpetuating child marriages.”

Article 1041 of the Iranian Civil Code, which permits marriage for girls from the age of 13 and for boys from the age of 15, prohibits marriage before puberty except “by the permission of the guardian and on condition of taking into consideration the ward’s interest is proper.”

“We call for a change in Article 1041 of the Civil Code to increase the age of marriage of girls and boys to 18 and remove the ability to get married before puberty by the permission of the guardian, and any adult who marries a child under the age of 18 should be treated as a criminal, and unregistered child marriages must be declared a crime,” said the activists’ statement.

“We expect legislators to undertake their responsibility towards citizens, especially children who need protection and support under the law, and change the marriage age as quickly as possible,” added the statement.

On August 8, the parliamentary news agency Khaneh Mellat quoted Fatemeh Zolghadr, the deputy leader of the women’s block of legislators, saying that despite opposition from many senior Shia religious figures, a bill to increase the legal age of marriage was being prepared.

“Despite Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi’s support for increasing the marriage age, there is still some opposition to reform,” said Zolghadr. “Nevertheless, the women’s block has not given up on this bill.”

In 2016, the conservative cleric, who is highly regarded by religious state officials, issued a religious ruling declaring that “in our times such marriages have proven to be against the interests of girls and boys… and are therefore null and void.”

The United Nations has categorized child marriage as a human rights violation. The most recent Interior Ministry figures show that 17 percent of all females who got married in the nine months between March and December 2015 were under the age of 18. More than five percent of them were under 15.

The largest number of child marriages registered during the same period were in Sistan and Baluchistan, Khuzestan, Khorasan Razavi, East and West Azerbaijan, Fars, Zanjan, Tehran, Hamadan and Mazandaran provinces respectively.

“The truth is that children caught in marriage have been raised in the lower ranks [classes] and on the periphery of society among the most defenseless part of the population,” said the activists’ statement. “These children are victims of poor economic conditions and corroded traditions that have taken away their rights as human beings and caused obvious harm.”