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Public Outcry Leads Officials To Void The Marriage Of Underage Girl In Iran

A cropped version of a photo which went viral on social media in Iran shows the marriage of a 9-year old girl with a young man in his 20s.
A cropped version of a photo which went viral on social media in Iran shows the marriage of a 9-year old girl with a young man in his 20s.

A videotape widely circulated on social media showing the wedding party of an under-thirteen year old girl and a 22-year-old man has forced a local judicial official in Iran to declare the marriage null and void until further notice.

"The marriage contract between the two is canceled, until a court decision on the case," an official, Hassan Negin Taji announced on Monday, September 2.

The videotape shows a child from a village in Kohgilouyeh&Boyer Ahmad province in bride gown surrounded by well-wishers encouraging her to say "I do," to the 22-year-old groom. Officials say the girl is eleven, but social media users have said she is nine years old.

After a barrage of jokes by spectators about the amount of money traditionally paid to the bride for saying, "I do," the underage bride ultimately delivers the required response, followed by a long-lasting cheer from the guests.

Referring to the Islamic Republic laws, Negin Taji insisted that the marriage was legally null and void, and the groom, the bride's guardian and the clergyman involved in finalizing the marriage had committed a crime. Their cases have been sent to court to be dealt with.

If found guilty the accused (the girl's guardian, the groom, and the clergy) face six months to two years in prison.

However, the saga does not end here. On September 4, the head of the local Justice Department announced that the person who initially published the wedding video will be prosecuted. The brides family allegedly told the authorities that a neighbor who had a grudge against them took this action on purpose. It is not possible to verify the claims of the judicial official.

Although the Quran does not mention a specific age for marriage, either for the husband or wife, Shi'ite jurists, including the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, have maintained that the appropriate age for marriage is puberty.

Insisting that Prophet Muhammad is the perfect example for all Muslims, Shi'ite jurists argue that he married a six-year-old bride, Aisha, with whom he consummated the marriage when she was only nine years old and had allegedly reached puberty.

However, the law in Iran requires a girl to be over thirteen and a boy at least fifteen-year-old at the time of marriage.

Some of the members of Iranian Parliament (Majles) tabled a motion last year to raise the legal age for marriage in Iran, but under the pressure of conservative Ayatollahs a majority of MPs, including a few women lawmakers, killed the motion.

Some 36,000 underage girls got married in Iran during the past year, an official said last April.

Local officials in Iran say the number of cases of underage marriage has been on the rise since 2018.

In Zanjan Province 1400 girls aged younger than fourteen, as well as 1054 other girls at the same fragile age in Northern Khorasan Province got married last year.

Iranian Civil Code allows underage girls to marry with the consent of their fathers (or guardians) and a court permit.

Ironically, while children aged less than fourteen can get married in Iran, they have to wait until the age of eighteen before they can apply for a driving license.