The horrific scene of a man holding the severed head of his 17-year-old wife, Mona Heydari, in southwest Iran, shocked the world. Mona, a victim of child marriage, was neither the first nor the last victim of the tragic “child marriage” crisis in Iran.
On May 21, the state-run Etemad newspaper published a report regarding the rise of child marriage in Iran and acknowledged how Iran’s misogynous regime paves the way for what is considered a crime in many countries.
“According to the latest report from the Iranian Statistics Center, between the winter of 2021 and the end of the fall in 2022, a minimum of 27,448 marriages involving girls under the age of 15 were recorded across various regions in Iran. Although this trend had been declining since 2018, it began to rise again in 2019, reverting back to previous heights,” the paper writes.
According to Etemad’s studies on the social and cultural situation in Iran during the fall of 2022, the report indicates that the number of marriages involving girls under the age of 15 increased from 33,421 cases in 2018 to 28,472 cases in 2019.
The crucial aspect to note is that a significant number of girls who are married at a young age also become mothers during their youth. “According to the latest announcement from the Registration Organization in April 2022, in 2021 alone, there were at least 69,103 babies born to mothers between the ages of 10 and 19, with an additional 1,474 babies born to mothers between the ages of 10 and 14,” Etemad writes in this regard.
In its piece, Etemad interviews Jhaleh Shadi-Talab, a sociologist and former director of the Women’s Studies Department at Tehran University, who believes that “many families have become aware of the negative repercussions of child marriage in recent years. However, they are compelled to engage in such practices due to make a living. “Our concerns will only have a meaningful impact when those in positions of authority are held responsible,” she adds.
According to Eteamd, Ansieh Khazali, Vice President for Women and Family Affairs under Ebrahim Raisi’s administration, refused to answer the paper’s questions. After more than two weeks, her office used the filtered Telegram messenger to give a statement.
Khazali had previously announced that “If I were to condemn marriages under the age of 18, I would have to condemn myself, as I married at a young age. However, I no longer believe that I lacked maturity or the ability to manage my life when I got married.”
In November 2021, Hassan Nowrouzi, the vice-chairman of the Judicial and Legal Commission of Parliament, criticized the term “child marriage” for 13- or 14-year-old girls forced into marriage. Nowrouzi argued that the term “child-wife” should strictly apply to marriages involving 9- or 10-year-old children, suggesting that a 13-year-old girl can no longer be considered a child wife.
As the state-run newspaper brazenly claims, “According to the law, the legal age for girls to marry is 13 years old.”
But what causes this phenomenon?
In recent years, an increasing number of young Iranian adults are choosing to postpone marriage due to the overwhelming financial burden it poses for both men and women in the workforce. However, in certain disadvantaged families, there is a tendency to forge alliances with families in better economic circumstances by pressuring their daughters into marrying significantly older men, sometimes with an age gap spanning years or even decades.
“Studies indicate that early marriages are predominantly driven by poverty. In less developed provinces with higher rates of poverty and illiteracy, the age of [conventional] marriage is lower. Additionally, regions such as Sistan and Baluchistan, Hormozgan, Khuzestan, Kurdshin, and border areas experience higher rates of child marriages compared to more central and developed provinces,” Etemad Daily writes in this regard.
Iran, a nation abundant in natural resources, holds immense wealth. However, instead of utilizing this wealth to alleviate the people’s crises, the ruling government recklessly squanders billions of dollars on illicit pursuits, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and a nuclear program. As a result, countless Iranians are plunged deeper into the quagmire of poverty.
The plight of Iranian women is truly deplorable, enduring double pressure inflicted by the misogynistic nature of the regime. Despite these immense hardships, Iranian women have showcased their remarkable potential to challenge the status quo. They have fearlessly led protests and played a pivotal role in nationwide uprisings in recent years, demonstrating their unwavering determination for change.