IranWire:  Girls are being forced to leave their family homes to escape pressures to enter into underage marriages, sexual abuse, and unstable environments due to drug addiction, a recent report reveals.

The government research, which focused on East Azarbaijan in northwestern Iran but also addressed the issue on a national level, says some parents continue to force their daughters to marry below the age of 15. “Last year, 360 girls under 14 were married, of which 10 were under 10 years old,” Majid Arjomandi, the deputy official for Social Emergency Services, said at a seminar focusing on the mental and social health of girls. According to the Iranian Students’ News Agency for the region, he said it was vital that better education around the issue be made available.

According to another report published earlier this year, child marriage is on the rise in Iran, affecting mainly rural areas.
In the 1970s, Iran’s civil code stipulated that girls could not marry before the age of 18, though a father could make a case for a girl to marry as young as 15 if she was deemed to be mentally and physically mature and a court approved the decision.

After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the first Revolutionary Government repealed Article 23 of Family Protection Act, lowering the age for marriage to 15 for girls and 18 for boys. Later, in 2002, the Expediency Council approved a provision that allowed girls to marry as young as 13, with the permission of a father or guardian.

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.

“The recent research shows that the reasons for girls running away from home has shifted,” social services official Arjomandi said. Sexual abuse and instability caused by increased drug addiction within families were driving girls out of home at an early age, he said.

“Relevant institutions must inform and educate families on these matters,” Arjomandi said. “Otherwise there will be no future for 50 percent of the country’s population; their lives will be wasted.”

Taboos around talking about sexual abuse means girls often face pressure to keep silent about what they have been through. The recent report’s findings suggest that sexual abuse is on the rise, but also suggests that more girls are speaking out on the issue, and leaving family homes because of it.

In Iran, incest is punishable by death. But the law also stipulates that if a rapist says the intercourse was consensual, the survivor must persuade the judge otherwise through her own account and by presenting witnesses — impossible in most cases.

Drug use is also on the rise in Iran, having an increasing impact on family life and posing a considerable risk to children. According to Iran’s interior minister, Abodolreza Rahmani Fazli, 55 percent of all divorces have some link to drug addiction.

According to Iran’s interior minister, there are more than 1.3 million addicts in Iran, comprising 2.5 percent of Iran’s total population. An estimated 1.4 million children could be affected by drug addiction in Iran, with more than six million Iranians being potentially affected by problems related to drug addiction.

In general, Iranian politicians and health officials have chosen to ignore the problem of drug abuse and how impacts on children, though there are exceptions, including Abbas Salahi MP, who has called for the government to tackle the issue more effectively.

The same recent government report also says that parents are increasingly out of touch with the needs of adolescent girls and fail to provide them with adequate psychological support throughout their teenage years. Girls are expected to abide strict rules within the home, whereas boys were not given such stringent and conservative guidelines to follow.

Read the original article in Persian