Child Marriage in Iran

I was speaking recently with some Iranians on the ground in Iran when they told me about a recent wedding where a 14-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl got married. They argued that the religious government admires such marriages, and the trend is unfortunately increasing. The authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran gave full permission for this marriage.

As the Iranians were telling me about a recent wedding, I was prepared to offer my congratulations until one of the men mentioned that it was between two young children.

Here are some photos of the marriage:

This is not an exception to the rule in the Islamic world or under the ruling of the religious clerics in the Islamic Republic. It happens all too often. Although Muslim scholars argue that marrying a 9-year-old girl was only completely acceptable more than 1000 years ago during the time of Prophet Muhammad, still tens of thousands of underage girls are being forced to get married in Iran and the number expands to hundreds of thousands in the entire Islamic world.

The Islamic Republic is only one country among dozens of other Islamic countries which have legalized and even encouraged under age marriages. This trend is reportedly on the rise instead of declining.  For example, there was a 59 percent increase in under-10 year old marriages in Iran in one year. Several parts of the Islamic Republic have experienced a dramatic growth in under-age marriages.

According to the Islamic Republic civil code, Iran’s constitution set the legal marriage age for girls at 13 and boys at 15. But the Iranian parliament’s legal affairs committee made several statements arguing that the Islamic Republic is attempting to lower the girl marriage age to 9. So, even though the above-mentioned marriage is illegal based on Iran’s civil code, the religious authorities allowed it.

Why is the government trying to lower the legal age of a girl to 9, rather than increase it? Isn’t age 9 even well before the child reaches puberty? All of these marriages are happening under the eyes of the so-called moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, whom President Obama seems to admire.

Even more abhorrent, the Islamic Republic previously passed a law that permitted men to marry their young adopted daughters.

Instead of focusing on crucial issues such as economics, gender rights, human rights, citizen rights and freedoms (speech, expression, assembly, etc), the government’s focus and time is spent on ensuring that grown men, and particularly the clergy, are capable of marrying a girl of any age they desire.

Of course as the Islamic belief in the Islamic Republic’s system dictates, the girl has no say in this marriage. With only her parents’ permission, she will be sent to another man’s house. She will go from innocent child to a wife overnight. Some of these marriages are arranged to settle financial debt or for other materialistic reasons.

Previously, Mohammad Ali Isfenani, the chairman for the legal affairs committee, said matter-of-factly: “As some people may not comply with our current Islamic legal system, we must regard 9 as being the appropriate age for a girl to have reached puberty and qualified to get married. To do otherwise would be to contradict and challenge Islamic Sharia law.”

Before the clergy came to power in Iran, the marriage laws of the nation were much more advanced and complied with international human rights and standards. After the revolution, there has been a steady trend to completely remove the rights of all women, increase patriarchy and ratchet up the clergy’s power over women, which serves to satisfy the ayatollahs and Imams’ sexual desires.

The justification that Ayatollah Khamenei and other Iranian religious leaders use for such terrible acts are either: This is what the Quran and Allah directed or this is what Muhammad did, as he married a 9-year-old girl.

This is exactly the same justification that the Islamic State is currently using to “legally” rape 9-year-old girls and slaughter thousands of people. I recommend you watch the Frontline documentary on the Islamic States taking Yazidi girls. Their acts are totally barbarous. The psychological and emotional difficulties that these girls go through is unimaginable.

According to this rising trend and according to the International Center for Research on Women, everyday approximately 25,000 girls under the age of 18 will be married. Other countries where this intolerable tradition occurs include Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Niger, Bangladesh, and India. UNICEF indicated that roughly 17 percent of girls are married under 18 in the Islamic Republic.

There is not even a right of consent for these girls against unwanted sex or becoming pregnant. Many of these girls die at a young age due to a pregnancy in a not yet fully developed body or childbirth difficulties.

A lot of girls who are forced into an underage marriage face grave psychological damage or even commit suicide. If they oppose the imposed decision to get married, the repercussions are swift and severe.  For example, an Iranian child bride faced execution for killing the man she was forced to marry. Razieh Ebrahimi was forced to marry at the age of 14. At the age of 15, she was a mother with a child. And at the age of 17 she killed her husband. Human Rights Watch urged the Islamic Republic’s judiciary to stop her execution.

The most important decision in a girl’s life, which will affect her for the rest of her years, is made by the government legal code and her brothers or parents. As Razieh Ebrahimi pointed out, “I married our neighbour’s son when I was only 14 because my dad insisted… My dad insisted I should marry him because he was educated and was working as a teacher. I was 15 when I gave birth to my child… I didn’t know who I am or what is life all about.”

It is unbelievable to see these acts still happening in the 21st century. What is the reason? Muslim scholars are quick to jump and say Islam, the Quran and Muhammad are not the problem. However, these are the very same things that they use to prove that a little girl’s life should be ended for the sake of the pleasure of religious men.