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Latest Statistics Reveal: Marriage of 31,000 Underage Iranian Girls in 9 Months

By Niusha Saremi (source: Rooz Online)

Over five percent of women who got married in the first nine months of 1392 (i.e., between March and December of 2013) were less than 15 years of age. According to the most recent figures published by the government’s National Organization for Civil Registration (Sazemane Sabte Ahvale Iran) 31,000 young girls under the age of 15 were married during this period. The figures also show that the largest registered married group for this period was for men in the 20 - 24 year age bracket and for women in the 15 - 19 year age group whose total number of marriages stood at 98,983.

Marriage of underage girls is an old problem in Iran. The Iranian human rights group Justice for Iran recently wrote a letter to the UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay calling it to investigate the issue of marriages of young and underage girls in Iran and hold the Iranian government accountable for this. The letter specifically asks the commissioner to raise the issue at the Human Rights Council and writes:

Signing the Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages without any reservation by Iran, reforming domestic codes with regards to the illegal nature of early marriages involving girls below the age of 18 and prosecuting responsible authorities involved with early marriages of girls, including legal guardians and judges in charge of issuing permit to marry children are among concerns that must be included and investigated as part of all negotiations with Iran.

Concerns become even more serious when one takes into account the fact that these figures do not tell the whole story. Many specialists believe that the official figures are underestimates. Dr. Shahla Kazemipour, a member of Iran’s Population Studies and Research Centre for Asia and the Pacific-PSRC - told IRNA news agency, “In some regions marriages are not registered because of the young age or under legal age of the bride and it is only after a pregnancy that steps are taken to register the marriage.”

Child Marriage (cartoon by Mana Neyestani, Tavana)

Denials by Officials; Insistence by Specialists

It was four years ago when Mohammad Boniyadzadeh, a children’s rights activist said, “There are more than 950,000 married children in Iran of which 85 percent are young girls.” But despite these troubling official and unofficial figures, there are officials who continue to deny the extent of this tragedy. Two months ago Ahmad Toiserkani, the head of Iran’s Civil Registration organization said, “No registry office has the right to register a marriage of a person less than 15 years of age. If this is observed, then it will be seriously dealt with. Till today, we do not have any registration of a marriage for individuals with less than the legal age.”

This denial resulted in a response from children’s rights activists. Soraya Azizpanah, a member of the Association for the Defense of Children’s Rights told ILNA, “Our first expectation as a child activist from officials is that they present accurate figures as these form the foundation of scientific research. The harmful effects of marriages involving children have been scientifically proven, so we expect authorities to pay attention to this just as they note the rising age of marriage. It would help if they worked to reduce the trend rather than deny the figures.

Children Who Have Children

The exact number of young girls under the age of 15 who were married in the first nine months of 1392 (2013) stands at 30,956. This contrasts with 29,826 girls of the same age group that were married in the preceding 12 months. Justice for Iran asserts that the statistics indicate that the number of marriages of girls under the age of 15 in Iran has dramatically grown between the years 2006 and 2013. It says during this seven years more than a third of women who registered their marriage were under 19 years of age. According to international conventions to which Iran has adhered individuals under the age of 18 are minors.

According to the same figures, there were more than 110,000 births in 2012 from mothers who were under the age of 19. Of this, 1,635 births came from girls between the ages of 10 and 14. In this period, there were four births from ten-year old mothers, 17 births from mothers who were 11 years, 50 births from mothers who were 12 years, 275 births from mothers who were 13 years and 1289 births from mothers were who were 14 years of age. According to these official figures, in the same year there were 4,377 births from mothers who were 15 years, 10,637 births from mothers who were 16 years, 19,881 births from mothers who were 17 years, 31,494 births from mothers who were 18 years and 43,925 births from mothers who were 19 years of age.

No Benefits for Early Marriage

Iran is a signatory to international conventions that bans marriage under the legal age of 18 years. In Iran, the legal marriage age for girls is 13 years and for boys 15 years. But the father or legal guardian of a child can permit the marriage of a child who is less than 13 years of age. One attorney told Rooz that 90 percent of lawyers in the country agreed that the legal marriage age in Iran should be raised to 18 because everybody knows the harm that is caused by early marriage.

... Payvand News - 07/23/14 ... --

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