A 12 year old girl in the western province of Ilam in Iran set fire to herself after being forced to marry a man the age of her father due to poverty.
In a meeting organized by the government to “Support Pregnant Women and Infants in the Impoverished Areas of Ilam Province”, a children right’s activist identified the girl as “Raha”.
“We found 12 year old Raha in a village in Ilam and she turned into a symbol of girls who are forced to marry due to poverty,” Zahra Rahimi said in comments carried by the state-run ROKNA news agency.
“Raha was not the only girl in the region who was forced to marry and girls who are forced into irrational marriages may be the ones who self-immolate to commit suicide after a few years,” she added.
Self-immolation and other forms of suicide are usually related to child marriage cases which are on the rise in impoverished regions in Iran.
This is while Iran’s parliament recently rejected a bill proposing to increase the marriage age for children.
The so-called “child spouse” bill, introduced into parliament in 2016, proposed an absolute ban on the marriage of girls under age 13 and an absolute ban for the marriage of boys under 16.
Hassan Nourozi, the spokesperson of the parliament’s legal commission defended the commission’s rejection of the bill.
“In our opinion, there are some problems in the proposed bill because many of the criteria are not acceptable. According to the representatives in the Legal Commission, a 15 year old girl is not considered a child … and is fit to marry,” the cleric said.
Nourozi said that according to the sharia laws, Qom jurisprudence and Iranian and Lebanese experts, a girl goes into puberty at 9 years of age and can be considered as fit to marry.
Suicide, women’s solution to problems
An expert on mental health and addiction at the Ministry of Health, who also talked at the meeting held on March 6, said that in the past five years, up to 5,000 people died in Iran due to suicide adding that women chose suicide as the solution to their problems in Ilam.
Another speaker at the meeting said that according to research carried out in Ilam, many women in this province were suffering from depression and anxiety and contemplated suicide.
“According to the women, their problems stem from poverty, widespread unemployment in the province and the existing patriarchal and prejudiced way women are looked at,” Maryam Habibzadeh added.