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Iran: Girls’ Suicide Rate Increases

Women's suicide in Iran has the highest rates in the Middle East
Women's suicide in Iran has the highest rates in the Middle East

One of the leading causes for increased suicide rates among Iranian women and girls is forced marriage, which is an example of violence against women.

The minimum legal age for marriage is 13 in Iran, but younger girls can marry based on the consent of their father and a judge, being pressured into it by their family. Being married off to men three times their age, many girls feel they have no other option but to take their own lives.

Kurdistan, Kermanshah, and Ilam have the highest rates of suicide, probably because forced marriage is more common there. In rural areas, teenage girls are lighting themselves on fire. Here are some recent examples of deaths from suicide after forced marriage:

  • Behnaz G, 17 and in Gonbad Kavus, who was married at 15 and had a baby last year. The baby sadly died at three months old
  • An unnamed 15-year-old girl in Taybad city, who died shortly after getting married
  • Sahar Fakheri, 20, a resident of Boyer-Ahmad County who was being forced to marry her cousin
  • Anahita Shahidi, 18, from Sepidar village, who was also being forced to marry her cousin

The National Statics Centre of Iran reported a fourfold increase in the number of child marriages throughout 2020, which might be linked to the need for the loans provided for weddings due to the abject poverty that 80% of the country are living under.  Essentially, girls are being sold off by their families in order to keep their heads above water, something that should never be necessary.

In one particularly egregious story from June 2020, an 11-year-old girl was forced to marry a 90-year-old man in Bushehr so that her family could be paid just $458.

The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child explicitly bans child marriages and for very good reason. Child marriages have horrific consequences for minors, particularly young girls. They may be forced to drop out of school, be raped, have children before they are physically mature, and, as a result of all of this, suffer from various mental and physical ailments. They will also, by the very nature of being children who are removed from education and saddled with children, be forced to rely solely on their husbands for money.

Forced marriage of any kind is a human rights abuse and violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage, and Registration of Marriage.