By Kayhan Life Staff
A recent report by the Tehran-based Statistical Center of Iran (SCI) said that between March and December 2022, some 20,000 girls aged under 15 were legally married in the country, and that 1,085 girls aged under 15 gave birth during the same period.
SCI listed the number of marriages, divorces, and newborn babies according to the age of the couples. According to the report, in that nine-month period, 142,186 couples married, while 43,800 divorced.
“The average age of couples getting married for the first time was higher in urban areas than in rural regions,” the report said. “The average age of men and women who married in cities last spring was 27.8 and 23.7, respectively.”
The SCI report included registered marriages only. “Child marriages” of underage girls have not been reported in various regions of the country for decades. Therefore, the number of “child brides” in Iran is likely to be much higher than the official figures.
In the past four decades, debates over setting the legal age of marriage have become controversial, given that Iran legally promotes and funds the marriage of minors.
According to Sharia law, girls and boys reach puberty at ages 9 and 15, respectively. Under the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran, underage girls and boys can marry.
From March to June 2022, 189 men and 3,256 women, aged between 15 and 19 got married, and 179 girls aged under 15 got divorced.
The highest number of divorces during the same period was among couples aged between 30 and 39 years old, with 18,733 men and 16,592 women.
According to SCI, 112,610 couples married, and 49,648 divorced in the summer of 2022. The average age of people getting married for the first time was 28 for men and 23.7 for women during that period.
Six boys and 5,970 girls under 15 years of age registered to marry in the same period. Also, 201 men and 3,635 women between the ages of 15 and 19 filed for divorce.
There were 176 recorded divorce cases of girls younger than 15 years. The highest number of divorces recorded in the summer of 2022 were among couples between 30 to 39 years, with 21,275 men and 18,894 women.
According to the SCI report, 13,6064 couples married and 51,690 divorced in the fall of 2022. The average age of individuals getting married for the first time was 28 for men and 23.8 for women.
The highest number of divorces recorded in the fall of 2022 was among couples aged between 30 to 39 years, with 21,960 men and 19,590 women.
Two boys and 6,930 girls under 15 married in the same period, and 252 men and 3,809 women aged between 15 and 19 years old divorced. There were also 196 recorded divorce cases of girls younger than 15.
To summarize SCI’s report, between the spring and fall of 2022, some 20,000 girls younger than 15 were legally married in Iran., and 1,085 girls younger than 15 gave birth during the same period. Also, 551 girls under the age of 15 got divorced.
According to the SCI report, 131,000 girls under 15 have been married in Iran in the last five years.
In November 2021, the Iranian media reported on a widespread scheme involving fake marriages, which enabled couples to apply for wedding loans (also known as marriage loans).
Samira Damavandi, a children’s rights activist, warned that raising the amount of wedding loans would tempt many disadvantaged families to marry their underage daughters to ease their financial difficulties.
Many of these are fake marriages arranged by families to receive a wedding loan and are followed by a quick divorce once the money is split between the two parties.
Not only does the Islamic Republic not prevent child marriages, it promotes them.
The Deputy Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, Ensiyeh Khazali, married at age 16. Ms. Khazali is a proponent of child marriages.
The government’s marriage incentive scheme has affected mostly the low-income and disadvantaged segments of the Iranian population, worsening the social and psychological problems caused by child marriage, teenage pregnancy, and divorce among underage couples.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)-of which Iran is a signatory- defines anyone younger than 18 as a child.
In the pre-Islamic Republic era, the official age of marriage in Iran was 18 for girls and 20 for boys, with a provision allowing girls under the legal age to get married only with a court order.
That law was abolished after the 1979 Revolution, on the orders of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The law was further amended in 2000, allowing “marriage before puberty provided the male guardian of a child gives his consent.”
Under Article 147 of the Islamic Republic Penal Code — passed by the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) and ratified by the Guardian Council in 2013 — girls and boys reach the age of puberty at 9 and 15, respectively. The dates are based on the Islamic lunar calendar, starting on the 1st of Muharram, which falls on a different date on the Gregorian calendar each year.
Under this law, girls and boys younger than 9 and 15 are considered minors, and adolescence starts at 10 and 16 for girls and boys, respectively.
Clauses 1 and 2 of Article 1 of the Child Protection Act — passed by the Majlis and ratified by the Guardian Council in 2020 — divide children into two categories: “minors and adolescents.”
A minor is someone “who has not reached the age of puberty as determined by Sharia law,” and an adolescent is anyone “under the age of 18 who has reached puberty age as set by Sharia law.” The dates are based on the Iranian solar calendar, which starts on March 21.