Iranian Parliament Rejects Bill to Raise Age of Consent for Marriage

Kayhan London – A proposed bill on raising the age of consent for marriage to 16 and 18 for girls and boys, respectively, has been rejected by the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) and the Guardian Council, according to Tayebeh Siavoshi, a deputy representing Tehran, Ray, Shemiranat, and Eslamshahr. The bill would have also made it illegal for girls below the age of 13 and boys younger than 15 to get married.

Mrs. Siavoshi, who is also a member of the Majlis’ Women’s Faction (a cross-factional all-female parliamentary group), warned of the alarming rate of child marriages in the country.

“Despite receiving many votes in the Majlis, the bill was, nevertheless, defeated. There was strong opposition to it, especially from the Guardian Council,” Siavoshi said.

The Women’s Faction of the Majlis had been discussing the “Child Bride” bill for more than a year and a half. It was initially fast-tracked as a first-urgent bill [the proposal is discussed in detail on the floor of the Majlis and receives provisional approval, pending a final decision by the relevant committee], but the Guardian Council and many deputies in the Majlis opposed it.

Siavoshi pointed out that the bill had failed despite the support it received from Ayatollahs Naser Makarem Shirazi and Yousef Saanei, both sources of emulation (Shia Marja), and many senior clerics in the Qom Seminary. “However, one senior cleric, whom we’d asked to issue a fatwa [religious ruling] on the issue, didn’t waver in his belief that [girls] reach puberty at the age of nine,” Siavoshi said.

“Some people have accused us of sacrificing religious values in our efforts to comply with international norms,” Siavoshi noted. “We, however, argue in favor of a dynamic religious dialogue that addresses current social issues.”

The bill is not entirely dead. It remains on the Majlis’ Judicial and Legal Committee’s agenda.

Siavoshi explained: “The Women’s Faction works closely with the Judicial and Legal Committee in trying to amend Article 1041 of the Civil Code which pertains to marriage law. We’ve had some positive results so far. However, our initial discussions with the Guardian Council regarding Clause 13 which specifies the age consent for girls, have not been productive.”

Those opposing the bill believe that the country’s religious and civil laws sanction child marriages. Even Friday prayers leaders promote the practice.

A.s.m @Aqileh_313, a proponent of “child bride,” tweeted: “Two years ago, I delivered a speech at a Mosque on the benefits of getting married at an early age. Afterward, a 14-year old girl told me that she’d like to bring her mother next time I spoke at their mosque. She did bring her mother the next time I was there. Two or three months later, I heard she’d married. It’s been two years now, and she is pleased with her life.” She followed her tweet with hashtags that translates into English as #right_marriage.

Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi