September 23, 2016 On 19 December 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 66/170, declaring 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child. The main objective of this resolution was to draw attention to the serious issues facing this young segment of the society.
Following this initiative, work started in earnest on compiling a comprehensive and analytic report on laws regarding the human rights of young girls in five areas of education, safety, labor, early and forced marriage and health and hygiene. The research produced a report which was published in 2015. A review of the report’s findings makes it abundantly clear that all Iranians should make greater efforts to fully understand the legal challenges and their various ramifications that are impacting children and particularly young girls.
Part of this research project was centred around speaking to children.
To mark the fifth anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child, Kayhan-London, in cooperation with Persia Educational Foundation, has published a number of these conversations which shed light on the daily lives of children.
Conversation with Pari
Pari lives in the village of Darjoneh, Lordegan County, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province. She got married when she was 13 years old, but continued to live at her parents’ until she turned 16, after which she and her husband moved into their own home. Today, Pari is 27 years old and has two children.
Pari, can you tell us about the circumstances of your marriage. How old were you and do you recall how you felt at the time?
I was either 13 or 14 when I was married, but we didn’t register it at the time. We registered the marriage when I turned 18. The family arranged everything. They said he was a relative, and that he was good and trustworthy.
How were you and your husband related?
He is my first cousin [aunt’s son on the father side].That’s why my parents gave their consent when he asked for my hand in marriage. But they insisted that we couldn’t live together until he had found a job and had moved into his own place. We waited two to three years until he finished his military service and then we moved in together.
How old are your children?
My eldest is seven and the youngest is 4.
Did you have any feelings for your husband at the time of your marriage? Did you care for him?
I didn’t know what being engaged or getting married meant. All I heard was:“our son has a future and will be good for your daughter”. They talked among themselves and gave some money to my family to buy my dowry. My husband and I saw each other from time to time during the first two years until we started our life together.
Did you ever object to the marriage?
I was happy with my childish thoughts, and didn’t pay any attention to anything.
How old was your husband?
He was 24 at the time. There is a ten-year age difference between us. I used to be very envious of unmarried children. I remember thinking why couldn’t I be like them?
What’s your husband’s job?
He is in road construction.
Are you living in Lordegan or in a village?
We live in our village of Darjoneh where both my parents and my husband’s parents live.
Are you living in your own house?
Yes. I’ve lived in my own house since the age of 16, from the start of my marriage. We never lived with my husband’s parents.
Are you renting?
No. We own our home.
How many brothers and sisters do you have?
I have three sisters and one brother.One of my sisters is married. My other brother and sister are engaged.
What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of getting married at an early age?
There was nobody to talk to about these things at the time. Nowadays though, I speak to my sister-in-laws who are single. Girls have greater awareness these days. I didn’t even know what marriage was. I used to think being engaged and getting married meant to wear a wedding gown and gold jewellery. I was only 13 years old. I was just a child.
Do you know anyone under the age of 18, where you live or in Lordegan, who still might get married at that early age?
No. You see less and less of that these days. I haven’t really seen anyone. Life is full of problems, and girls want to be independent. But during my time, there were many girls who got married early and lived with their husband’s families.
How is your financial situation? I remember you were having a lot of problems when you were single. You used to weave carpets. Do you still do that?
It is not bad. My husband looks after things. We manage. He pays attention to things. I don’t weave carpets any more. I used to when I was single and even when I was engaged.
Did you continue your studies after getting married?
I finished seven grade, but it didn’t have anything to do with my marriage. I didn’t have any interest, but I regret it now. I quit school a year before getting married. Many people told me to continue with school, but I was busy with weaving carpets. I like to go back to school but it’s hard with two children. Besides, there are no schools in our village. I have to travel to Lordegan. It’s hard.
Why do you regret dropping out of school?
I really like to help my children with their homework, but today’s elementary school equals the middle school of my time. It’s difficult. I sometimes don’t understand it. My husband has a high school diploma. I tell him that he is out of the house most of the time, and soon I won’t be able to help the children with their studies. My children are important to me.
Do you have good relationships with your husband and children?
I have a short fuse, and lose my temper quickly. I don’t like my children to go out. I like them to stay home all the time.
I worry a lot. I fear they get into fights with other kids. I worry all the time.
Do you ever think of getting a divorce?
Not at all. My head was full of childish thoughts when I first got married. My husband and I used to argue all the time. But things are better now. My husband is a good man. He is content.
What do you argue about?
Mostly the children, but we don’t really argue or fight.
How old were you when you first became pregnant?
I got pregnant for the first time when I was 19, but then I didn’t get pregnant again for a few years.
Do you want more children?
I’d like to if our financial situation improves. I have two sons. I like having a daughter. Although having sons is very important in these parts, but I like having a girl. But my husband isn’t like that. He’ll look after girls too.
Current laws guarantee many rights for 18 years old such as driving and voting. Is this right or irrelevant?
This is the age that one really comes to understand things. One learn what it means to drive a car, and who she wants to vote for. People under 18 are ignorant.
Do you think this also applies to marriage?
Precisely. I didn’t have any idea what marriage was. It was out of my control. Life piles up added pressure on you when you are under 18, but I have come to terms with it.