Anorak News | Is Iran really seeking to marry girls as young as 10?

Is Iran really seeking to marry girls as young as 10?

by | 31st, August 2012

ROBERT Tait reports in the Daily Telegraph of children getting married in Iran.

…A fundamentalist MP, Mohammad Ali Asfenani, has said Iran has a religious obligation to legally recognise the weddings of girls as young as nine.

“As some people may not comply with our current Islamic legal system, we must regard nine as being the appropriate age for a girl to have reached puberty and qualified to get married,” Mr Asfenani, chairman of the parliamentary legal and judiciary committee, told Khabar Online. “To do otherwise would be to contradict and challenge Islamic Sharia law.”

So. It’s a “fundamentalist” Muslim issue? The International Center for Research on Women produced a brochure entitled Too Young to Wed: The Lives, Rights, and Health of Young Married Girls:

Worldwide, there are more than 51 million adolescent girls aged 15–19 who are married and bearing the burden of domestic responsibility and the risks associated with early sexual activity, including pregnancy… Rates of early marriage are highest in West Africa, South Asia, and East and Central Africa, where approximately 30 percent or more of girls aged 15–19 are already married. Rates are also relatively high, but more moderate, in Central America and the Caribbean, where 20 percent of girls aged 15–19 are married, compared to 2–4 percent in North America, East Asia, and Western Europe.

The Demographic and Health Surveys were conducted in the corresponding country:

…It is difficult to obtain data on marital status or age at marriage among adolescents aged 10–14 because of the legal norms surrounding marriage and the fact that official statistics do not document illegal behavior; in some societies, the proportions of girls who are married when they are younger than 15 may not be insignificant.

Hurry Up Harry looks at a report from 2009:

…Marriage to a pre-pubescant child with whom consummation occurs upon reaching puberty is not a model most people would be happy with in the modern world (although Bolivia sets the age of consent at puberty).

Which is probably why nearly all Muslim countries have reformed these rules beyond recognition. The age of consent in Algeria and Malaysia is 16, in Indonesia it is 19 for males and 16 for females. In Egypt it’s 18 for both and Tunisia 20. Reform has not, however, come to Saudi Arabia. Back in April the world followed the case of a mother trying to obtain a divorce for her eight-year-old daughter who had been married off by her father to a friend he owed a debt. In the end she succeeded and now there is even talk of Saudi Arabia preventing marriage before the age of 18.

Women Living Under Muslim Laws Solidarity Network looks at the data from Iran. Tait wrote:

An Iranian NGO, the Society For Protecting The Rights of The Child, said 43,459 girls aged under 15 had married in 2009, compared with 33,383 three years previously. In 2010, 716 girls younger than 10 had wed, up from 449 the previous year, according to the organisation.

The women’s group responds:

Dear all,

Recently, a petition generated by claiming that the “Iranian government is legalizing marriage for under 10-year olds” has been spreading widely. I would like to bring it to your attention that the petition is neither accurate nor credible. Our trusted Iranian colleagues have consulted Farsi media agencies and all their contacts and confirmed that the information is incorrect and misleading. Furthermore , it was confirmed that there is no such statement or anything similar in the Majlis. There is only a PANEL DISCUSSION on early marriage which was published by a News Agency Khabar Online, 

The MP, Mohammad Ali Isfenani, who was quoted or rather misquoted in the petition as saying “We must regard nine as being the appropriate age for a girl to have reached puberty and qualified to get married” has in fact said the contrary. MP Isfenani’s official stance is in fact against early marriage and he actually defends the law that prohibits early marriage in Iran.

The petition has already attracted over 50, 000 signatories. It is important that we bring this to the attention of our respective networkers. Such fabrications/propaganda can undermine the integrity of our work and discredit our fight in defending the rights of girls and women in Iran and beyond!

Thank you for your support!


Iran used to be a society in which people married young. In a Muslim culture that viewed premarital sex and dating as taboo, this was pretty much a social imperative. My mother married at 28, and in the 1970s that meant she had brushed up against spinsterhood. But today, Iranian women are attending university in unprecedented numbers — they account for over 60% of students on Iranian campuses — and typically enter the workforce after graduating. This has turned their focus away from the home sphere, made marriage a less urgent priority and changed women’s expectations of both marriage and prospective husbands.

Such are the facts…

Photo: Three-year-old Sunam, wears her engagement outfit and holds hands with her fiance, her 7-year-old cousin, Nieem, in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 11, 2007. Sunam cannot talk yet, but Parvez agreed to engage his young daughter because his sister, Fahima, Nieem’s mother, did not have a daughter and desperately wanted one. (AP Photo/Farzana wahidy)


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