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DOIW’s message to WIDF and appeal for action in fighting Child Marriage

In a letter to the Women’s International Democratic Federation, the Democratic Organisation of Iranian Women has described the profound damage that the Islamic Republic’s policy of Distressed Child photopromoting child marriage is wreaking on young girls and children in our country and appealed to the Federation for its solidarity in taking action against this inhumane practice. The following are excerpts from the Organisation’s message:
‘Child marriage has serious and irreparable impacts on children’s physical and mental health. Many underage girls (under 18) die during or after childbirth.
The United Nations passed a resolution in 2014 that obligates all member states to ban child marriage and to ratify and enforce laws to prevent it and to punish who break them.
The legal age of marriage in Iran is 13 for girls and 15 for boys, and in some cases the child’s guardian could allow, with court’s approval, the child to be married even at earlier age. As such, legal avenues for child marriage are available. Moreover, the policy of “population increase” issued by the Supreme Leader in 14 articles and tasked to the government, urges the increase in the rate of pregnancy, lowering the age of marriage, and providing more services for pregnant women, which encourages child marriage.
On March 2nd, the Iranian news outlet “Khabar Online” quoted the Vice President Ms. Molaverdi and wrote: “In recent years, we have received alarming statistics about the marriage of girls under the legal age, and even of girls under 10.”
In another report, Khabar Online reported the wedding of underage girls in the province of Hormozgan, which reads: “Two weeks ago, the authorities of the town of Parsiyan, in the province of Hormozgan in Southern Iran, announced the officially organised marriage of more than 50 school girls across the town. In this regard, Azar Khosravani, the Secretary of the town’s Marriage Committee of the Bureau for Women’s Affairs, proudly said that this [wedding celebration] was arranged officially for the first time in the town in order to make marriage easier according to the ‘Islamic-Iranian’ culture.
Promoting this approach is a policy of the Islamic Republic, which besides other civic and Sharia laws has resulted in the rise of child marriage and its adverse consequences such as the increase in the number of runaways from home, prostitution, and drug abuse among children. Child marriage, moreover, results in an increase in the rate of domestic violence and childbirth death.
The issue of child marriage, especially marriage of underage girls, is nothing new. However, imposing neoliberal economic policies has impoverished more families and as such has increased the rate of child marriage.
Based on the official and published statistics, about 40 thousand girls under the age of 18, including 30,000 girls between 10 to 14, and 1537 girls younger than 10, have married in 2012. According to the latest official statistics there are one million and a hundred child spouses under the age of 18. The actual rates, though, are higher than what is published in the official statistics.
Iran has ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child in 1994 and is obliged to abide by this convention while reserving the right for the compatibility of the articles to Iran’s domestic laws. Though child marriage, as acknowledged by some articles of this treaty, is considered as violating the rights of children, Iran, by relying on Sharia Laws, evades it, and as such, encourages child marriage.
The Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC):
Article 19 (Protection from all forms of violence): Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally. Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents, or anyone else who looks after them. (Child marriage is regarded as serious mental and physical violence.)
Article 12 (Respect for the views of the child): When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account. This does not mean that children can now tell their parents what to do. This Convention encourages adults to listen to the opinions of children and involve them in decision-making – not give children authority over adults.
Article 27: Children have the right to a standard of living that is good enough to meet their physical and mental needs. Governments should help families and guardians who cannot afford to provide this, particularly with regard to food, clothing and housing.
Article 29 (Goals of education): Children’s education should develop each child’s personality, talents and abilities to the fullest. It should encourage children to respect others, human rights and their own and other cultures.
Article 32 (Child labour): The government should protect children from work that is dangerous or might harm their health or their education… Children’s work should not jeopardize any of their other rights, including the right to education, or the right to relaxation and play.
Article 34 (Sexual exploitation): Governments should protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Based on these articles, child marriage, as a serious case of child abuse, is against the rights of children as defined by the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
We appeal to you to raise the deplorable issue of child marriage as a violation of the human rights of the child – one which is being practiced in many Asian and Islamic countries – in your upcoming congress and through its exposure to condemn and help us fight against it.’
MaZanan 05.06.2016

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