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Get Married Or Pay 'Singles Tax', Conservative Cleric In Iran Says

Group marriage ceremony at Tehran University on March 6, 2018.

The proposal of an Iranian cleric to make marriage compulsory and levying taxes on those who refuse to build a family has become a hot topic among social media users. Many have already made tens of jokes about it.

In a note titled "Proposal of New Laws To Parliament and Administration To Encourage Marriage" Mohammad Edrisi, a conservative cleric, has argued that marriage should become compulsory and those who are not married by the age of twenty-eight should face the consequences.

Many are now tweeting with the compulsory marriage hashtag. "I'm a year and one month and twelve days behind," a Twitter user said referring to the age limit of twenty-eight while a woman said she deserved a prize -- a car or a house -- because she got married at eighteen, ten years before reaching the age limit. Yet another user said she worried that the next bill proposed to parliament would also make having children before the age of thirty compulsory.

A man having trouble to go to sleep, worrying if compulsory marriages could come to be decided by lottery.

The Shiite establishment and officials, and particularly Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself, keep telling people they must marry and have children. On Sunday Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said investigations show that measures taken to push up the fertility rate are not adequate.

Many Iranians are reluctant to marry due to economic hardships that have made forming a family an unattainable dream for many. But like everywhere else in the world there are also people who prefer the single life to married life. Some others even opt for what has come to be known as "marriage blanche" – or in simple words, living as unmarried partners -- in the clercally ruled country.

The Shiite establishment's concern about the reluctance of younger Iranians to marry and to have children is rooted in their ideology of spreading Shiism across the world. For the country considering itself the leader of the Shiite world which requires soldiers to fight for it, fewer marriages means fewer children and fewer soldiers and the weakening of Islamic Iran.

The consequences of refusing to marry proposed by the quite obscure, low-level cleric include creating laws that will force unmarried individuals of above twenty-eight to pay one-fourth of their income in tax which should be given to those who want to marry but are prevented from doing so due to poverty.

He has gone into quite a lot of detail: People with illness between the ages of seventeen and twenty-eight must receive free treatment, be prevented from marrying if the illness is terminal. However, if those who are cured of the illness and still refuse to marry should pay all the marriage costs of a couple.

In the same manner, he has proposed to deprive unmarried individuals of holding higher managerial positions, teaching in universities and other key positions. The list of incentives proposed to be given to those who do marry is quite long, too. He proposes employment privileges and all sorts of benefits.

Girls and boys as young as 13 and 15 can get married in Iran. For boys it is possible to petition a court to allow marriage before they turn fifteen.

"Setting a legal age for girls to marry is against religious regulations since only fathers have the right to decide when to give away their daughters, regardless of their age," a religious ruling said in August 2019. Shari'a laws dictate that girls marrying for the first time should acquire the consent of their father or paternal grandfather to marry, whatever their age.

Figures from Iran suggest child-marriage is rampant in the country, with girls younger than 14 forced to take husbands. The practice is most prevalent in rural areas. there is no legal limitation on the age difference of the child bride and the groom.

In 2019 a bill to stop child marriages was blocked in the Parliament by legislators who included women.

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    Maryam Sinaiee

    Maryam Sinaiee is a British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National, who contributes to Radio Farda.