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Pain and Suffering of Iranian Children

The murder of several little girls in recent weeks, has drawn media’s attention to the suffering of children, the unprecedented increase in the rate of child marriage and the appalling social damage caused by child abuse  Iran. These are only a small part of the social problems related to the children that surface in the media. They are rooted in poverty and unemployment, combined with ignorance, cultural poverty, and policies based on the traditionalist and reactionary views of the ruling regime in Iran. Combined with an absence of legal and stat

young boy in hospital

e protection for children, these conditions exacerbate social problems and the suffering of the children in Iran.
According to the statistics, children make up 24 million of Iran’s population (according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, anyone below the age of eighteen years is defined as a child). Sociologists deem children as the most defenseless and vulnerable individuals in a society. The Convention states, “The Convention states that everyone under the age of 18 (the definition of a child), regardless of gender, origin, religion or possible disabilities, needs special care and protection because children are often the most vulnerable.”
Despite signing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran’s theocratic regime has taken no steps towards it. The Child Protection Act has been gathering dust in the bureaucracy of the parliament for years. The regime persecutes organisations that genuinely promote the rights of children, it conceals and obstructs the publication of data on the harm done to children and works towards removing the subject from the agenda of periodic international meetings on the rights of children, and it tries to present fake statistics. In 1994, Iran joined the convention of the Rights of the Child (adopted by the UN in 1989) and is obliged to implement its articles. However, in reality, being a signatory to the convention has not led to Iran acting on its obligations. Iran has spent his efforts only on issuing unrealistic and unsubstantiated reports on the life of children in Iran. But the statistics and the painful facts that are published by non-governmental organisations, or that were publicized in the media during the election campaign, reveal how appalling the violation of children’s rights is in Iran.
Based on the statistics in official publications, 63% of girls and 37% of boys suffer physical and sexual abuse in Iran. This does not even include the abused street children or children who work in small workshops. While physical abuse is the most obvious form of child abuse and the most visible one, child sexual abuse in the homes, schools, and other public spaces, is neglected, and given that sexual abuse is a taboo, it is not discussed or investigated publicly, and continues to have a devastating impact on children’s mental and physical health and safety.
Working Children and Sexual Abuse
According to available statistics, 2.5 million children have no access to the education system in Iran. Besides, 1.5 million children, including street and working children, are forced to work to help the livelihood of their families. Some of these children are among street and working children, even as load carriers across the borders. Based on research in the field of child abuse, suggests that those who abuse children have been abused as children, themselves. However, given that the media and official statistics do not report on these, there is little statistics, and these are among the problems that threaten the lives of millions of Iranian children and continue the vicious circle of violence in the society.
Experts believe that child abuse is the outcome of domestic violence, particularly violence against women. When women and children are considered as the property of men, under their unlimited authority inside the home, where men are not prosecuted for violating the rights of women and children and abusing them, and in the absence of any legislation protecting families, the cycle of violence continues.
Child Marriage, a Clear Manifestation of Child Abuse
Children’s marriage, as a clear case of child abuse, rooted in poverty and economic, cultural, and social deprivation, is lawfully supported by the Iranian regime. The Family Protection Law, adopted in 1975, defined the minimum age of marriage at 18 for girls and 20 for boys. The Law which was the result of the women’s fight for their rights under the Shah regime, was repealed and replaced after the Islamic revolution. The misogynist and traditional clergy of Iran set the marriage age at 9 for girls and 13 for boys, i.e. their maturity age according to religious beliefs. The amendments in 2002 made some changes to the previous law. Based on these changes, girls below the age of 13 and boys below the age of 15 should have the permission of their legal guardians or the discretion of the court for marriage. 40 years after the “Islamic Revolution” and despite serious challenges against this inhumane law, the Iranian regime resists increasing the age of marriage to 18 for boys and girls.
This inhumane law affects children mentally and physically and threatens their health. Girls, as young mothers, are especially vulnerable and experience serious infections, bleeding, and even death. Besides anxiety, depression, and attempts to commit suicide, other social damages such as early age divorce, education deprivation, increased domestic violence, and finally perpetuation of the vicious circle of deprivation, are consequences of the child marriage.
According to the official statistics, out of the registered marriages in 2015, 34.09% and 4.1% belong respectively to girls and boys under the age of 19. Of 97,862 registered newborns in the same year, 1511 belong to mothers under the age of 15.
The results of a survey done in 2000 show that 56% of girls from 10 to 19 years of age, have quit school due to early marriage. Very high rates of child marriage and divorce are registered in the provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan, Khuzestan, Khorasan Razavi, East and West Azarbaijan, Fars, Zanjan, Tehran, Hamedan and Mazandaran.
Yet another consequence of child marriage is 25 thousand divorced children with girls being the majority among them. According to the released statistics, during the years of 2011 to 2015, the rate of divorced girls age 10 to 14 almost doubled and reached 127, from 68. The number of divorced girls, age 15 to 19, show also an increase from 1026 in 2011 to 1231 in 2015. Similarly, the rate of divorced girls shows a distinct increase in the recent years.
A group of civil right activists have recently raised their concerns about the epidemic child marriage through a statement which titled “End Child Marriage”. The statement asks for raising the age of marriage to 18 for both girls and boys, and for avoiding the possibility of child marriage through the permission of their legal guardians. The statement also asks for criminalizing the children’s unregistered marriages.
Resolving the problems in the field of child abuse is tied to alleviating the economic and cultural poverty, criticizing traditional ideas, repealing Sharia laws, and setting in place protective legislations in accordance with the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The medieval-age regime of Iran has neither the power nor the intention to put an end to this dilemma. It is up to everybody, especially women with their influential role, to fight together to provide children with the world they deserve.

MaZanan 14.09.2017

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