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Government Delaying Legislation To Protect Women And Restrict Child Marriage

File photo: Early marriage in Iran.
File photo: Early marriage in Iran.

An Iranian female MP has criticized President Hassan Rouhani’s administration for delaying the presentation of a bill on “forbidding violence against women” to Iran’s parliament.

In an interview with Khabaronline on August 11, Tehran MP, Fatemeh Zolghadr, 47, said, “Thanks to Rouhani’s former deputy for Women and Family Affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi, the bill was formulated and delivered to the Government’s Bills Approval Commission but it has been stuck there for a very long time and not rendered to parliament’s women faction”.

Ms. Zolghadr did not elaborate on the reason(s) behind the delay, but insisted that the president’s office for women and family affairs has no access to the bill, anymore.

Moreover, Ms. Zolghadr added, “We were going to prepare a motion on ending and preventing violence against women, such as acid attacks, wife beating and killing, etc., but the government declared that it is formulating a similar bill. Therefore, we stopped our efforts but the government bill never materialized.”

Meanwhile, Zolghadr insisted that a motion for amending the law on legal age for marriage is still on parliament’s agenda.

“Though a number of high ranking Shi’ite clergy are against increasing the age limit for marriage, presenting a motion on the subject has not been overruled,” Zolghadr asserted.

Quoting ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, Tehran’s MP said, “Marriage under 13 years of age is haram (religiously forbidden)”.

A protest against acid attacks in Iran, often targeting women,Tehran, October 22, 2014.
A protest against acid attacks in Iran, often targeting women,Tehran, October 22, 2014.

The legal age limit for marriage in Iran is currently 13 years for girls (and 15 for boys), but the law has many loopholes, such as father of the bride’s consent or a court order that are widely abused.

According to statistics, 40,000 under fifteen girls marry every year in Iran, while more than 5,000 girls of the same age divorce.

Although little data is available on child marriage in Iran, UNICEF estimates that approximately 17% of girls are married before the age of 18. The numbers may be even higher as many families in Iran do not register births or underage marriages.

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 deepening poverty and parents’ desire to control their daughter’s sexuality, UNICEF reported in 2016.