After much public outcry, this was amended to 13 for girls in 2002, but marriages were allowed to take place at younger ages with the permission of parents and judges. Even if there was no way to subvert the laws, 13 is far too young to be getting married.
In 2017, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency, the Parliament (Majlis) saw an amendment that would have increased the marriage age to 16 for girls and 18 for boys, even still allowing girls to be married at 13 with the consent of parents or a judge, but this was rejected by the Legal and Judiciary Committee.
The damaging decision to allow the marriage of children is highly dangerous for all children, but the burden falls more heavily on girls, who are often married to much older men, forced to go through multiple early pregnancies and births, and who are generally the victims of domestic violence as a result of not being able to leave the marriage. This causes harm to Iranian society for decades to come.
Iran’s Vice President Maasoomeh Ebtekar said: “From our point of view, reaching mental adulthood is adequate for marriage. However, individuals under the age of 13 are children, and marriage at such an age leads to numerous physical, mental, and psychological consequences… However, from our consideration, there are some problems in terms of child marriage, and it is evident from the tally of 30,000 marriages under the age of 14.”
To be clear, no girl wants to marry a man twice or three times her age, start keeping house, and raising babies when she could remain in education and play with children her own age. Sadly, patriarchy and poverty coupled with the misogynous constitution of Iran exert massive force on these girls and many families are now resorting to selling their daughters into marriage.
In December 2019, the official IRNA news agency wrote that the rate of child marriages below age 15 has quadrupled because the marriage loan had risen to 300 million rials [around $2,250] and the families desperately needed the cash.
“The Central Bank’s statistics confirm the fact that the number of people under the age of 15 seeking marriage loans has increased by nearly 70 times in comparison to 2018. Furthermore, the number of loan requestees has risen by about 90 times in the first five months of this year. Over the last decade, approximately 400,000 girls under the age of 15 have married,” the state-run Arman-e Melli daily wrote.