Child Marriage In Iran: Is 13 Too Young? Some Are Even Younger

The Islamic Republic allows girls as young as 13 to marry legally. On top of that, a lack of enforcement means that elementary school age children may be forced into marriage as well.

People walking past a closed wedding dress store in Tehran, Iran
People walking past a closed wedding dress store in Tehran, Iran

Images shared on social media platforms have turned new attention to the issue of underage marriage in Iran, where critics say the government too often turns a blind eye to the practice.

The photos in question are of a six-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl in a medical clinic in the district of Kazerun in southern Iran. The assumption is that they're being tested ahead of their possible marriage, presumably as planned by their families.

The head of the Kazerun health care authority, Bandar Baramaki, confirmed that the tests were because the families were concerned about prior cases of thalassemia (a blood disorder) in both families. Nevertheless, he downplays the child marriage angle.

"We don't know whether later on they will marry or not, and even if they wanted to they could not, because two people with thalassemia cannot marry," he says.

Likewise, the local judiciary responded by saying that the children were Afghans and that the families in question, "with regard for their customs," were indeed planning to have the children marry, but only after they reach "legal" age, namely 13 for girls and 15 for boys.

The Kazerun Public and Revolutionary Court warned it would act against anyone "publishing fake news and subjects."

But critics say that in this case, public officials are the ones who are twisting the information as a way to cover up the reality of underage marriages, which are on the rise with poorer families being offered money for their children.

The laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran require marriage parties to register with a notary and provide valid identity papers (with photos) proving their age. It appears, however, that the law is not being respected or enforced.

Social platform users have used #No2IR (short for "no to the Islamic Republic") to denounce the regime's position on underage marriage — both legal (by allowing girls as young as 13 to marry) and de facto (by turning a blind eye to cases involving even younger children) — as simply horrendous.

She says underage marriage figures "are not that high."

According to figures from the Iran Statistics Center, in the three-month period from March 20, 2020, more than 7,000 girls aged 10 to 14 years were married, with one girl aged less than 10 also registered as married. The same body found that the mothers of 346 children born in that period were not yet 15 years old, with mothers aged 15 to 19 giving birth to some 16,000 babies. Additionally, it counted 131 divorces involving a wife aged less than 14 years, and 2,650 divorcées aged 15 to 19 years.

The country's vice-president for women and family affairs, Ma'sumeh Ebtekar, says underage marriage figures "are not that high" and that Iran has a "strong" reactive system to block such situations.

For years now, a bill to raise the legal marriage age to 18 has been circulating between the presidency, parliament and the Guardian Council. The latter body ensures legislation does not contravene the constitution or religious laws.

In late Feb. 2021, the district of Namin in the province of Ardabil registered 120 underage marriages in one notary alone. The Namin chief prosecutor, Azim Akbari, says those were "just some of the cases of underage marriage that were identified" — presumably in the province — though he adds that as time passed, it was difficult to find out when exactly couples had married.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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