Iran-Sitauational Analysis and Strategic Context
According to the Iranian religious structure, puberty and menarche are considered to be the transitional pivotal turning point from childhood to adulthood. Reaching this biological threshold means becoming eligible for marriage regardless of age. Although ECM marriage is applicable to both boys and girls, the harsh reality is that the impact is greater on young girls. It is a global issue but rates vary dramatically, both within and between countries. Nevertheless, in terms of proportions and numbers, most ECM takes place in rural sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (UNICEF 2001).
Although little data is available on Child Marriage In Iran and in absence of credible and independent studies, official Iranian government statistics show that tens of thousands of girls and boys under the age of 15 are married off by their families each year in Iran. The numbers may actually even be quite higher. Some families in Iran do not register underage marriages, or do so illegally. According to Iran’s Association of Children’s Rights, the number of girls married in Iran under the age of 15 went from 33,383 in 2006 to 43,459 in 2009, a 30% increase in three years. This is due to cultural norm and local customs, deepening poverty and parents’ desire to control their daughter’s sexuality.
According to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the legal age of marriage for girls in the Iran is 13 years, but girls as young as 9 years of age may be married with permission from a court. In 2013, a legislative attempt to declare the marriage of a custodian to his adopted daughter illegal was also voided by the Council. The amended text of the relevant law now in effect recognizes the legitimacy of such a marriage provided that a competent court considers it to be in the best interest of the child. At least 48,580 girls between 10 and 14 years of age were married in 2011, 48,567 of whom were reported to have had at least one child before they reached 15 years of age. Some 40,635 marriages of girls fewer than 15 years of age were also registered between March 2012 and March 2013, of which more than 8,000 involved men who were at least 10 years older. Furthermore, at least 1,537 marriages of girls less than 10 years of age were registered in 2012, which is a significant increase compared with the 716 registered between March 2010 and March 2011. 22 The number of registered divorces for girls under 15 years of age has also consistently increased since 2010. The Government responded to the foregoing by stating that the law prohibits forced marriage, meaning that all marriages in the country are consensual.
Statistics in Iran from the past five years show a significant drop in the number of students enrolled in (all-girl) schools. For the past five years, an increasing number of girl’s schools have been experiencing a significant drop in the number of students enrolled. Furthermore, the mortality rate for married girls below the age of 15 is five times higher than those over the age of twenty.
For the first time this study aims at analysing the prevalence of ECM in Iran by focusing on the prominent socio-cultural factors that mirror this deep-rooted inequality that is responsible for its continual existence and adherence. The rationale for this study is to demonstrate the evidence and prevalence of this harmful practice in Iran and to assist decision makers in sharpening their focus on this urgent protection of girls’ human rights. Respect for girls’ human rights requires that we prevent and eradicate child marriage and actively support those girls who are already married. It is the only course by which we can avert what otherwise is the human tragedy of ECM. This study is an effort to bring to the surface the problem of early marriage in Iran.