October 11, 2013| To mark the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child, Justice for Iran (JFI), an NGO based in London, UK, has released a report titled “Stolen Lives, Empty Classrooms”. The full report may be read here.
Last year alone in Iran, 1,537 girls below the age of 10 and 29,827 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were registered for marriage. In other words, every 15 minutes one innocent life is forced into a marriage that may result in the arrest of her development and her life to be threatened through mental and physical abuse and other forms of violence. Moreover, statistics in Iran from the past five years show a significant drop in the number of students enrolled in (all-girl) schools.
At 1,411 cases, Ardebil, a province in northwest Iran, has the highest rate of marriages for girls below the age of 10; a number 67 times more than the next highest province. The rate of girl marriages in Ardebil directly implies that in this particular province, judges routinely allow legal guardians to force their girls into marriage.
The report also notes the Islamic Republic’s recent legalization of marriages between parents and adopted children. Despite much debate and opposition, Islamic Republic authorities have referred to Sharia law to legitimize relations between males and females in adopted families before and after the age of maturity. Experts believe the passing of this new law may impair social and familial relations in Iran by leading to the normalization of incestuous practices and the promotion of sexual relationships with children.
Iran is currently signatory to multiple international conventions, including: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices.
By implication, Islamic Republic codes and laws sanction the rape of children since underage girls can be forced into marriage upon the approval of a judge. JFI says the Islamic Republic of Iran must first and foremost be condemned for its failure to illegalize child marriages.
Moreover, JFI has called on Islamic Republic judicial and legislative authorities to revise national codes and laws in accordance with international commitments regarding the age of maturity. JFI says Islamic Republic authorities should hold accountable legal guardians and those judges who are directly responsible for the approval of child marriages.