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Parliament Is Weighing New Law To Deal With Child Abuse Crisis

Street children in Iran. File photo

Legislators in the Iranian Parliament are weighing a new bill that empowers police forces to detain parents whose children are sexually abused.

“The number of children who are sexually abused in Iran has increased to the extent that the parents whose children are molested will be fined or sentenced to suspended prison terms,” the state-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) cited an MP as saying on November 27.

The deputy head of the Legal and Judicial Commission, Mohammad Kazemi, told ILNA that “the significant increase of social disorder in recent years, numerous cases of child molesting, a child-labor crisis and child beggars, as well as sexually abused children” is alarming.

The new bill, according to Kazemi, stipulates punishment for parents deemed irresponsible and who ignore their children’s welfare.

The member of Omid (Hope), the reformists’ faction in the parliament, has also announced, “The new bill empowers security and police forces as well as social workers to separate children from parents who do not responsibly look after their children.”

The separated children will be handed over to “lawful centers,” Kazemi said, without elaboration.

The new bill is under study by the parliament at a time that the echoes of recent comments made by the director-general of Tehran’s Social Services Organization have not yet died down.

In a shocking comment, Reza Ghadimi disclosed that “90 percent of children forced to work in the capital, Tehran, are molested.”

Furthermore, in his interview with Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), Ghadimi lamented, “Sadly, after surveying 400 child workers, social workers found out that 90 percent of them had been molested. It was revealed that relatives of these children round up and send them begging around from dawn to late evening and then molest them.”

Ghadimi insisted, “These facts are well documented.”

The comments were so shocking that they triggered widespread anger and scandal all over town, forcing Ghadimi to rephrase his remarks.

“I’ve been misunderstood,” Ghadimi explained, adding, “By molesting, I did not mean sexual abuse of the working children. I meant child workers are kept in the cold outside in streets, they are not fed properly, and their faces are painted black to attract pity.”

However, the daily Shahrvand reported that it has a copy of Ghadimi’s initial remarks which clearly states that 90 people of child workers are sexually abused.

Nevertheless, government officials insisted Ghadimi’s remarks were unfounded.

Yet, according to the head of Iranian Social Emergency, in 60 percent of child molesting cases, fathers and in 86 percent of total cases both parents are responsible.

“In only 1.5 percent of child molesting cases were strangers involved,” Hossain Assadbeigi noted.

Meanwhile, he reiterated that many families whose children are molested prefer to keep it a secret and refrain from reporting it to the authorities.

A lack of reliable sources has practically made it impossible to determine the numbers of street children in Iran. However, based on a 2005 report by the U.S. State Department, and admitted by the Iranian government, 60,000 street children were accounted for in Iran.

Many children’s rights’ organizations believe the number is much higher, citing figures up to 200,000.