The spokesperson for the parliament’s Legal Commission attempted to justify the rejection of a bill to raise the legal age of marriage for children in Iran’s parliament.
“For a girl who is alone and has no one, marriage is definitely a game changer,” Hassan Nourozi said in comments carried by state-run media.
The so-called “child spouse” bill, introduced into parliament in 2016, proposes an absolute ban on the marriage of girls under age 13 and an absolute ban for the marriage of boys under 16.
For the marriage of girls between the ages of 13-16 and for boys between the ages 16-18, the bill would require parental consent and court permission. Marriage for girls over 16 and for boys over 18 would require no court permission.
According to statistics from official sources, the marriages of at least 37,000 girls between the ages of 10 to 14 were registered in Iran in 2017. This does not include marriages that were not legally registered.
Reports also indicate that there are 24,000 divorcees under 18 in Iran, of which 15,000 are under the age of 15.
Another report published in Iranian media in 2017 said that 17% of girls in Iran married under the age of 18. The number did not include “temporary marriages”, which are on the rise in Iran.
“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.
He also compared Iranian girls living in the 21st century with his grandmother.
“My own grandmother was married at 9 years of age and did not have any problems,” he said.
“Our point is that if a girl who does not have a father and has problems can marry a 17 year old young (man), and there is no problem with that,” he added defending the rejection of the child marriage bill.
This is while according to Iranian experts and statistics, girls are usually forced to marry older men.
In 2013, more than 41,000 girls were registered for marriage while only 300 boys under the legal age were registered.
According to an official at the Vice Presidency for Women and Family Affairs child marriage was a social harm that stemmed from poverty, cultural deprivation, and addiction.
“What percent of 13 year old girls or under 13 year-olds in our society think about marriage with a 14 or 16 year old boy? These cases are very rare,” Shahnaz Sajadi said adding that girls were usually forced to marry men that were 10 or 20 years older than them.
“When the father of a 12 year old girl forces her to marry because she does not want to marry, the legitimacy of such a marriage is legally and religiously problematic,” she added in an interview with the ILNA state-run news agency.
The Women and Family Affairs Special Assistant said that she was confident that none of those who rejected the child marriage bill in the parliament were willing to force their children to abandon school and marry.