According to a January 6 report by the state-run ILNA news agency, she said: “We continue to see girls get married between 9 and 14 years of age… Some [6%] of those who get married are girls between 10 and 14.”
Salahshouri explained, as should be obvious to everyone, that children do not have the ability to consent to marriage and posited that 10-year-olds are prevented from voting because they often do not understand what it entails, so why should they be forced to marry when they are far from ready.
She went on to say that early marriage, and by extension early pregnancy, severely impacts on the health and wellbeing of these women, citing a marked spike in cancer diagnoses for early brides. This does not even mention the fact that child brides are more susceptible to domestic abuse, reproduction issues, and mental health problems.
Shahnaz Sajjadi, the special assistant to citizens’ rights in the presidential directorate on women and family affairs, also spoke at the meeting to describe early marriage as “one of the tragedies of our times”.
Sajjadi said: “Child marriage violates children’s rights and we are not entitled to obliterate the childhood of any human being. Under our law, a minor (under 18 years of age) is not entitled to own a property, have a driver’s license or vote because [they are] considered immature. How do we expect such a person to be able to get married? This is while the Convention on the Rights of the Child reiterates that a child becomes mature at the age of 18.”
This meeting was held just after Iran, which is a member of UN Women board, rejected a parliamentary motion to ban marriage for children under the age of 13.
Hassan Nourozi, the spokesperson for the parliament’s Legal Commission, tried to justify the rejection with the claim that marriage could be a “game changer” for girls who are alone, which is believed to mean orphaned, and that girls enter puberty at nine years of age.
He then compared girls in the 21st century with his grandmother, who was herself married at nine and, according to him, didn’t 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.”
Of course, reasonable people recognise that children do not become ready for marriage or having children themselves just because their hormones start to change, that 2019 is a far different time than 1919, and that there are indeed issues with a grown man marrying a child.
The bill would have banned marriage for girls under 13 and boys under 16 and required parental consent and court permission for girls under 16 and boys under 18.
Salahshouri said: “Instead of opposition to the bill on child marriages and focusing on the marriage of 40,000 kids, it might be better to provide these youths with the resources they need.”
According to official statistics:
• 37,000 girls aged 10-14 were married in Iran in 2017
• 17% of Iranian girls are married before age 18
• 24,000 under 18s are divorced
• 15,000 under 15s are divorced
These figures do not include people whose marriages weren’t registered or whose marriages were temporary.