‘Child marriage’ refers to the marriage of two people, one or both of whom are under the age of 18. Forced marriage can have negative physical and emotional effects on the individuals involved, especially if the marriage takes place during their childhood.
Child marriage is a human rights violation that endangers the well-being of children and young adults around the globe. It can lead to a denial of education, a loss of autonomy, limited job opportunities, an increased risk of domestic violence and abuse, and other negative consequences. The effects can persist throughout the lifetimes of those who experience child marriage.
This article talks about the effects of child marriage that continue into adulthood.
In Iran, there has been a high incidence of child marriage in recent years. According to data from the Iranian Statistics Centre, more than 131,000 girls under the age of 15 were married in the past five years. More than 7,500 of these marriages occurred in the summer of 1400. Additionally, a report from Tejarat News states that an average of 30,000 girls under the age of 15 were married annually from 2017 to the present. The report also notes that 123 boys under the age of 15 entered into marital relations in the past five years.
The Iranian Statistics Centre also reported a 10.5% increase in the marriage rate of girls aged 10 to 14 in 2020 compared to the previous year. Data from the country’s registration organisation reveals that, in the first six months of 1400, approximately 791 children were born to mothers aged between 10 and 14.
Child marriage has severe consequences that can persist into adulthood, including physical and mental harm, early pregnancy, an increased risk of maternal death, depression, suicide attempts, unemployment, divorce and a lack of adequate education. Additionally, due to the lack of education, poverty and increased stress caused by child marriage, girls in Iran who marry before the age of 18 have higher risks of developing serious health conditions such as heart attacks, diabetes, cancers and strokes.
The issue of child marriage in Iran is a result of the Government’s failure to address and solve this problem.
The following are some of the common complications of early marriage.
Early pregnancy is a common result of child marriage, and it can have serious effects on health. Young girls who get married may not have enough information about sex, puberty and sexual activity to handle the changes that happen during pregnancy. Additionally, girls who get married at young ages often have more children and more unintended pregnancies.
Child marriage can cause physical pain during sexual intercourse for young girls because their sexual organs are not fully developed. Without access to modern medical care to prevent or delay pregnancy, these girls may become pregnant and have to carry children. As well as early pregnancies, child marriage is linked to high rates of sexually transmitted infections, because young girls may not be able to practise safe sex or get medical care.
Child marriage can increase the risk of mental health problems in adulthood. In Iran, it has been linked to mental disorders and personality disorders. Women who marry as children may be more likely to develop antisocial personality disorder than women who marry as adults, which in turn can increase the risk of divorce.
Women who marry as children may be more likely to experience depression, nicotine dependence and specific phobias. A significant portion of these disorders may be caused by abuse – girls who marry before the age of 18 may be more at risk of being beaten by their husbands than women who marry at the age of 21 or older.
In Iran, there have been instances where victims of child marriage have resorted to self-immolation or suicide to escape their circumstances. For instance, on 20 December 2021, a 16-year-old girl from Delgan in the Sistan and Baluchistan province took this drastic action after being pressured by her family into marrying a 40-year-old man. Such tragedies highlight the severe and often desperate situation faced by young people who are forced into marriage before they are ready.
In Iran, ‘honour killings’ of children and women have persisted in recent years, with at least seven such deaths occurring in the past two years. These include the killings of Romina Ashrafi (age 13), Shakiba Bakhtiar (age 16) and Mobina Suri (age 16). Additionally, some people may flee their homes and end up in dangerous situations in which they face challenges such as prostitution and substance abuse.
When girls are present in society, they have the potential to make positive impacts on the world and its social norms and achieve success in their lives. In rural areas, women often play key roles in agricultural operations and effectively implement agricultural, energy and environmental projects in their communities.
The involvement of women in society can help reduce poverty and hunger. However, one of the drawbacks of marrying at a young age is that a woman may not have a job, leading her to have children instead. Having a large number of children can hinder the personal and social development of girls, who may not have the opportunity to read or continue their educations and personal growth.
All humans have fundamental rights that should be respected. One of these rights is the right to marry and start a family. This means that anyone who wants to get married has the right to do so and choose their partner. It is important that a person’s consent be respected and that no one be forced to marry against their will. Marriage should be a choice made freely and without coercion.
Early marriage is a form of child abuse for both girls and boys and goes against their rights. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, everyone under the age of 18 is considered a child and has all the rights listed in that convention, including the right to be free from discrimination, mistreatment and slavery.