Rayehe Mozafarian- Samire Hanaei
Report Of Stop Early Marriage In Iran
We sit together in the hall waiting for our turn. As always in the ultrasound room, I and more clients are women. Only a few men are watching us with impatience. She is sitting next to me pushing the armrest. The pain was easily observable in his face. Her hand vessels turn out with anger every time. She pains. The hot weather rushes as always ahead. The space of hall is shut and discomfort. I look at her number. 58! To reach her turn, the doctor should see 8 persons others. Although I have no experience on this issue but I start the conversation in order to get rid of the dullness of the clockwise.
She has only 23 years old. She got married at age 16. Now she has three children and her eldest son goes to school next year. Early marriage in the rural district of Kahurestan (one of the nearby villages of Bandar Abbas) is not an unusual story. Her husband works in Dubai. He works in the shop of one of the intimate persons and sells sacks and glues and whatever the dhows want to sell. He rarely comes to Iran, just a few months in a year. In any her childbirth, he was not on her side. Last child was 8 months when her father saw her. She also works in the land of her husband’s father. They cultivate the summer crops and tomato.
My turn comes. When I came back she was not and her chair was empty. Perhaps she did not tolerate and take refuge elsewhere. As soon as said Hormozgan women, we unconsciously remember the image of colorful veils and port nice pants and costly. We remember the women covering veils with beautiful long and short dresses. Hanna tattoos on their hands and the brown cute faces of them when passing under the palm trees have been observed in films mostly.
Our mental image about Hormozgan women only is limited to their covers and color of skins; the local coverage that can be particularly attributed to Hormozgan women. But really are Hormozgan women hidden their real faces under their veils and colorful covers?
In 2015 in Hormozgan Province, 42 women less than 15 gave birth to a baby. From these, 18 cases were in cities and 24 cases were in villages. Also, 2975 women between the ages of 15 to 19 years living in this area gave birth to their children in this province. As a whole, Hormozgan is the province which the highest rates of child marriage occur in.
The table below lists the marriage of girls at different ages. The figures in this table are remarkable according to statistics of the marriage registration offices and national organization of civil registration. There have been recorded 9 marriages in girls less than 10, 595 marriages in girls between 10 to 14 years was recorded in just one year. While this province is one of areas that have a lot of unregistered marriages or delayed registered marriages.
Table 1: The number of registered marriages due to the ages of women at the time of marriage
One hypothesis has been always discussed:
Is early marriage one of the reasons of maternal and infant mortality?
Partly the answer to this question is yes because for having a healthy baby, the mother should have a healthy capable efficient body. Early marriage and subsequent early pregnancies cause the mothers’ body have no growth opportunities and the full development and leading to compact and short fetus. So there is no time for the evolution and productivity in order that the children do not have the process of proper development of full maturity.
The fact is that we have heard from the management of Hormozgan women less.
In most regions of Hormozgan Province, the men work in countries neighboring Persian Gulf, because of its proximity and the effective fields for economic activities and even they force to be far away from their families over many years. During this time, young women gained the responsibility of life very soon and are married at early ages due to traditional marriages and have children should manage the families in all aspects and the economical management of families, savings, responsibility for children training and animal husbandry in the absence of the husband without proper training in this field
In fact, women, as the sole administrator in their families, have the dual role.
CHILD GROOMS IN IRAN
A statistical review by:
Stop Early Marriages in Iran
Worldwide, 156 million men alive today were married during their childhood; according to a recent study by UNICEF. This data of a huge number of child grooms is published while little research being done to address the issue. UNICEF statistics also show that boys’ early marriage counts 18% of total cases of child marriages before age 18. However, it should be noticed that this proportion is not fixed in different areas and in certain regions the percentages may even reverse. In some areas of India, for instance, boys marriage before their age of majority is more common than girls’ early marriage.
Across 52 countries of the World, there is no legal limitation on the marriage of girls under age 15. This number turns to 23 countries when talking about underage boys. It means that the rules of 23 countries allow the parents to force their boys to marry under the age of 15. Consequently, these boys won’t have the chance to resist against it even later when they reach the age of majority.
The international community is taking the case of child brides in priority of awareness activities because early marriage affects girls in far greater numbers than boys. However, it would be against children and human rights to ignore the boys. Same as the girls, the negative consequences of early boys marriage could be studied and measured. Boys are forced to leave school and engage with low-level jobs. This leads to the continuation of a poverty cycle. The purpose of ending child marriage is to help break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
Iran is among the countries in which the law does not provide any specific definition of the age of majority; thus enables the boy’s guardians to make them marry before the age 15. According to article 1041 of Iranian Civil Code, the marriage of a girl before the age of 13 and of a boy before the age of 15 (puberty age) is a subject of their guardian permission and on the condition of taking proper interests into consideration and at the discretion of the competent court.
As usual, Campaign of Stop Early Marriages in Iran is going to publish a series of annual statistical reports about the situation of child marriage and other related problems up to the end of this year. A statistical view and analysis of data will help the readers to better understand the current situation.
According to the National Organization for Civil Registration, from March 2015 to March 2016 (1394), 314 boys under age 15 and 27811 boys between 15-19 have entered into marriage. Furthermore, during the same period, 1 divorce case of a boy under age 15 and 1217 divorce cases of the boys between 15-19 have been recorded. There are 2 important points that should be considered here:
- This data only refers to the cases that are registered in formal marriage/divorce registration offices. While many of the marriage cases are not formally registered before the parties come to the majority age or there are special needs for legal procedures for example in the case of childbearing.
- If the person is under age 15 when marrying and more than 15 when divorcing, this case will be recorded in the older group of age.
When studying child marriage and its consequences, it is important to pay attention to the age of both wife and husband. The age distribution table of child marriage and divorce shows that during the year 1394 (march 2015-march 2016), 314 boys under age 15 have entered marriage. Referring to the divorce data, we may assume that a number of the boys who have divorced at an age between 15-19, had been entered marriage few year earlier; when they had been under age of 15.
SOURCE: STOP EARLY MARRIAGE IRAN
By Samireh Hanaei
She is only 13. Her breasts have only just started to grow. She is barely 155 cm tall. Everyone seems to think she is the type not to grow fat. She tries to behave politely and elegantly. Listening to me attentively, she carefully considers her responses. “What made you marry?”, I ask. She doesn’t reply immediately. Thinking for a while she finally answers: “He was a nice boy and my family approved of him.” “How did your family come to terms with your young age and his?” I enquire. “They initially told me that they thought I was too young but eventually they gave in to my wish”, she says. I sense contradiction in her words. She herself did not know how she ended up married to this only just 20, motorbike loving boy, with barely the ability to grow a moustache.
“Have you thought about the future of your education? You are only in the 7th grade! What does your husband think of the matter?” “God will help”, she responds. It seems her husband hasn’t yet made his thoughts clear on the issue. She, however, knows that things are not going to be easy for her.
“Why him? Did you ever imagine that you would be married just two months after your 13th birthday?” I inquire. “He was my best suitor, the best chance I had for marriage” she plainly answered. “Have you forgotten that you are only 13 my dear?” I ask with great astonishment. She had believed herself to be a grown up; ready to marry a boy who himself had a long journey to manhood.
۱۳ year old Fatemeh defends both her decision to marry and her resistance to the disapproval of her illiterate parents. She no longer wants to continue the conversation. I notice her husband’s photo as her phone screensaver; seeing my glance she hurriedly conceals her phone from view, as though she wants to hide him away from me, scared of the many questions that might follow. She is tired of telling everyone that she is happy and without problems; she’s terrified to think that her life might not turn out as she had dreamt.
Fatemeh is not the only girl here in Bastak that has married young. There are so many girls her age already busy nurturing their kids in this region. Mothers, still children themselves, share their bed with boys eager to prove their manhood.
Early marriage can mostly be found in villages that associate womanhood with being a housewife. Most of these girls are promised to someone before reaching the legal age of 13; pledges that are made legal as soon as they reach that age. As a result it is hard to ascertain the exact number of females under the age of 15 getting married in the area of Bastak. Unfortunately, despite attempts made by Iranian welfare organisations and continued ‘reach-out’ work, the statistics showing the number of couples getting married with at least one partner being under 18 is growing yearly and requires special attention from the authorities.
sociologist and children`s rights active
The latest report of Global Foundation, “Save the Children”, found that every year more than 4.5 million children younger than 15 years are forced to marry. It means every seven seconds one child marries! Here, I show why the concept of forced child marriage should be redefined. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, no one can enforce children under 18 years old to marry and everyone, especially a child has right to decide about his/her body and life.
Child marriage is a kind of sexual harassment which happens in the name of custom, tradition, religion and law. Therefore, forced child marriage should be called “child rape and Pedophilia”. My thesis is that UNICEF should redefine the concept according to the related conventions and commitments which many governments have ratified. Some of my arguments are: 1. In this way, nobody can abuse the tradition or local customs to enforce children to marry an adult. 2. The common definition of pedophilia is the abuse of prepubescent child, but from a sociological perspective it should be redefine based on the social age not the biological recognition of the body. The old definition of the pedophilia cannot protect the children who are at the risk of adult sexual harassment by the name of marriage. 3. By renaming this concept, UNICEF and social activists would have a stronger tool to forbid sexual harassment of children in the name of customs and moral, so they can use this modern and humanistic moral approach against the old, non-humanistic and traditional one. 4. This terminology can change child marriage from an honorable tradition to a shameful behavior. Consequently, family and community members will face a moral challenge by arranging a child marriage.
Child marriage is on the rise in Iran, according to a report published by the Iranian Student Correspondents Association.
The practice is on the wane among Iran’s wealthier families, but among poorer communities in rural areas, girls under 13 are being forced to marry to alleviate their families’ economic hardship. Though it is less common, boys also marry at a young age in some areas of Iran.
In 2014, the organization Justice for Iran appealed to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to take action on the issue of forced marriages among underage girls in the country.
So what is the legal age for marriage in Iran? Does Iranian law actually allow children aged 13 and even younger to marry?
Iranian lawyer Mohammad Olyaeifard spoke to one of his clients about how underage marriage has affected his family, in particular his sisters. His client asked Olyaeifard to explain provisions for underage marriage in Iranian law and whether he had any legal grounds to object against the impending marriage of his sister, aged ۱۱٫
“I am from a big family,” my client Hashem said. “I have three brothers and four sisters and we live in a village near Mashhad. My family is not well educated and they work in farming. But I continued my education and I am now studying agricultural engineering.
The big problem in our lives is the early marriage of my siblings, which was forced by my father. He is extremely religious and traditional and believes that, according to sharia, marriage at a young age has many benefits and prevents moral corruption.
“According to these beliefs, he married off my three brothers and my three sisters at an early age. These underage marriages led to problems, which are more severe for my sisters. His efforts to force me to marry were of course not successful, as I left for the city to continue my education and was outside his reach. My worries are mainly about my youngest sister, Marzieh. She is 11 years old but is big for her age and for this reason, my father has decided to marry her off at an age even earlier than my other sisters.
“Marzieh is a child and cannot object. Like me, she is interested in school and education. She does not want to marry this early and lives in fear. My siblings and I protest against this decision, but we cannot stop him. Our mother is helpless as well. Please enlighten me about the legal standing of such marriages.”
I told Hashem that before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Article 1041 of the 1934 Civil Code established that girls could marry at ۱۵; for boys, it was 18. It was possible to marry earlier, but only by obtaining a recommendation from a legal official, subject to the court’s approval. Girls under 13 and boys younger than 15 were not allowed to marry at all, not even with their father’s permission and a court ruling. Only the court could decide in cases of girls under 15 and boys under 18; parental consent was not enough.
The Civil Code of 1974 raised the legal age of marriage. Article 23 of the 1974 Family Protection Act changed the provisions of the old Article 1041. “The marriage of girls before they are 18 and boys before they are 20 is not allowed,” read the article. “But if it is justifiable, an exception can be made for a girl, as long as she is not younger than 15 years of age, provided that she is physically and mentally ready, a legal official recommends it, and his recommendation is approved by the court in the relevant municipality.” The article goes on to say that anyone who marries a person “who has not reached the legal age for marriage” is acting in violation of the provisions of the article and can be prosecuted and punished according to Article 3 of the 1937 Marriage Act.
From Solar to Lunar and Back
After the revolution, the age for marriage was changed yet again. The first change took place under the Revolutionary Provisional Government. Article 23 of Family Protection Act was repealed and the age for marriage was lowered to 15 lunar years for girls and 18 lunar years for boys, effectively bringing the age even lower than the 1934 law, which was based on the solar calendar.
But it did not stop there. In 1983, two provisions were added to Article 1210 of the Civil Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which lowered the legal age for marriage even further because it set the threshold at puberty. “The age for the majority of boys is 15 lunar years and for girls, it is nine lunar years,” the provision stated.
In the same year, Article 1041 was amended to include the proclamation that “marriage before puberty is prohibited.” But it added that marriage before puberty was allowed if the guardian of the child granted permission and “proper consideration” was given to the “ward’s interest.”
How the “ward’s interest” was judged or assessed was left to the aforementioned guardian.
But individuals do not reach puberty at the exact same age. To do away with the resulting confusion and controversies, in 2000, the Iranian parliament again amended Article 1041. However, the Guardian Council, which has the power to reject laws that it deems to be contrary to the constitution or sharia, rejected the bill. The issue was referred to the Expediency Council, which has supervisory power over all branches of the government.
Eventually, in 2002, the Expediency Council approved a new provision. It reads: “the marriage of a girl before she is 13 solar years old or a boy under the age of 15 solar years can only take place with the permission of the boy or girl’s guardian. Then the relevant court must decide that the marriage is prudent”.
Since then, the marriage of girls under the age of 13 full solar years has been governed by this article. The article also establishes that, before reaching the required age, girls and boys cannot marry unless the guardian permits it and the court approves, even if they have reached puberty. In other words, it is the court that decides. It was for this reason that the Guardian Council originally objected to the amendment to Article 1041.
Just say no?
“Are there any legal provisions to prevent the marriage of a girl under the age of 13 if her father has consented?” Hashem asked.
Article 1062 of the Civil Code, I said, specifies that “marriage can only take place when it has been proposed and accepted in words that explicitly convey the intention of marriage.”
By law, then, a girl can object to the marriage, and prevent it. But since girls under the age of 13 are normally dominated by the wishes and decisions of their fathers, and cannot realistically object, the only hope of preventing such marriages is through the courts. The court can refuse permission if it deems the marriage to be against the interests of the girl, as stipulated by Article 1041 of the Civil Code.
“Are there legal punishments for violating the law?” Hashem asked.
I said that, yes, that under Article 646 of the penal code, violation of the law can result in punishment. Article 646 stipulates that marriage “before puberty without the permission of the guardian is forbidden. If a man violates Article 1041 of the civil code, and its amendment, and marries a girl before she reaches the age of puberty, he shall be sentenced to six months to two years’ imprisonment.”
Of course, it is important to keep in mind that this law supported an article from the civil code that was amended in 2002. Nevertheless, by law, it appears that the punishment for marrying girls who have not reached puberty without the father’s permission is still in effect.
But, overall, under Iranian law, there is no minimum age for marriage.
Surprised to hear about the laws governing the marriage of girls under 13, Hashem left our consultation, hopeless and dejected.
Fifty high school students were married in a mass ceremony in the Iranian city of Parsian, according to local news reports. But city officials have been downplaying the event and distancing themselves from the idea of encouraging child marriage.
The “celebration” was first mentioned by the chairperson of the Wedding Committee in Parsian’s Women’s Affair Department. Azar Khosravani said the event was aimed at “facilitating marriage according to Iranian and Islamic norms and culture,” according to the Vaghaye daily.
An employee of Parsian’s education department claimed to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the event was only a gathering of married students and the department had no involvement in organizing it.
But education officials who support the practice of marriage at a young age had attended the ceremony held at the governor’s office in late February.
The official, who asked to remain anonymous, admitted to the Campaign that marriage among high school students was a “serious problem” throughout Hormozgan province located in southern Iran.
News of the mass marriage ceremony raised concerns that local officials were directly or indirectly promoting child marriage. But Khosravani claimed the students had already been married in an interview with Iran’s official state-controlled news channel.
“Fifty married students from girls’ schools, along with their families, attended the ceremony. Some officials, such as the Friday Prayer leader of Parsian as well as the town governor gave speeches and presents were given to the married students. Some philanthropists and supporters of making marriages easier were also there,” she told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
Parsian’s Friday Prayer leader, Hojatoleslam Hadi Mirzaie, has been unabashedly supportive of what he calls the “Islamic lifestyle.”
“The culture of easy marriage should grow and spread within society and young people and their families should lower their demands to allow this divine religious matter to blossom,” he said.
According to official Iranian statistics, tens of thousands of girls under the age of 15 are married off by their families each year.
Reporting on the high number of child marriages in Hormozgan, the Qanoon news site published official statistics showing that there were five marriages of girls under the age of 10, and 530 under the age of 14, in the province during the Iranian year ending March 21, 2011.
The acting head of Parsian’s education department, Mahmoud Ravan, told the local ANA news agency on March 1 that the ceremony at the governor’s office was not officially sanctioned by the department but was organized for students who were “either married or engaged” to inform them about the benefits of easy marriage.
“Most of the married students in our district are in high school or junior high school, and sometimes in elementary school. Having these married students studying next to unmarried students has caused some problems,” said Ravan.
The United Nations has categorized child marriage as a human rights violation. Civil and children’s rights activists in Iran have opposed religious conservatives who advocate child marriage.
A top official from the government of President Hassan Rouhani, who promised to improve human rights during his 2013 presidential campaign, has requested an investigation into the report.
“In the past couple of years we have received worrying reports about girls getting married before the legal age, even some under the age of 10,” said Shahindokht Molaverdi, vice president in charge of Women and Family Affairs, on February 29.
“We have requested the Ministry of Justice to present a report to the vice president’s office about girls having early and illegal underage marriages. This matter has been referred to the National Center for Children’s Rights for investigation,” she said.
Experts say the Iranian government’s marriage statistics are imprecise because underage couples who do not register their union cannot be tracked and counted.
Attorney Shima Ghoosheh previously told the Campaign that many families avoid the civil registry office and only have religious marriage ceremonies that do not require official registration, or register the marriages illegally.
Ghoosheh added that the official marriage age for girls in Iran is 13 because the government considers them to be sexually and mentally mature.
“Thirteen-year-old girls can legally get married. But even if a girl is under 13, her father can ask a judge’s permission for her to marry,” she told the Campaign in an interview.
Sharvand newspaper reported updated government statistics on child marriage on August 18, 2015: “The National Organization for Civil Registration statistics show that in the past year, 40,404 girls under the age of 15 and 32,587 boys under the age of 20 have registered their marriages. According to the most recent statistics of the National Organization for Civil Registration, 419,488 girls under the age of 15 and 484,885 boys under the age of 20 got married between 2004 and 2014.”
Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, reported in 2014 that “at least 48,580 girls between 10 and 14 years of age were married in 2011, 48,567 of whom were reported to have had at least one child before they reached 15 years of age.”
“Some 40,635 marriages of girls under 15 years of age were also registered between March 2012 and March 2013, of which more than 8,000 involved men who were at least 10 years older. Furthermore, at least 1,537 marriages of girls under 10 years of age were registered in 2012, which is a significant increase compared with the 716 registered between March 2010 and March 2011,” said Shaheed in his report to the UN.