COVID-19: latest news and resources on child marriage and COVID-19

Visit our new interactive Atlas!

Iran

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
3%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
17%

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

Photo credit: DFID

Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 15
3%
UNICEF 2017 % Married by 18
17%

* References

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)

What's the child marriage rate? How big of an issue is child marriage?

According to the latest available data from 2010, 17% of girls in Iran are married before the age of 18 and 3% are married before the age of 15.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran reported that about 40,635 marriages of girls under 15 years of age were registered between 2012 and 2013, of which more than 8000 involved men who were at least 10 years older.

According to a member of the Judicial and Legal Commission of the Iranian Parliament, thousands of children get married unofficially without registration, and in many cases, a girl’s actual age is not correctly recorded.

Are there country-specific drivers of child marriage in this country?

Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys.

In Iran, child marriage is also driven by:

  • Poverty: Some families marry off their daughters in exchange for money or a house. This has led to the perception that girls are commodities in a deal. A girl’s beauty is considered to be important in determining how high her bride price is.
  • Harmful traditional practices: Child marriage can take different forms in Iran. Blood marriages are reportedly still practiced in tribal areas, and involve a girl being married off in order to resolve a feud between two tribes. Naval string marriages involve a girl being “pledged” to marry a cousin or distant relative when she is born through a symbolic cutting of the umbilical cord. Temporary marriages (Sigheh), used to get around Islamic restrictions on sex outside wedlock involving minors, are also common.
  • Religion: Sharia-based Iranian law states that the legal age for marriage is 13 for girls and 15 for boys, but marriages can still be carried out at a younger age with the consent of fathers and permission from court judges. This has enabled a culture whereby child marriage is considered somewhat socially acceptable.
  • Family honour: In some parts of the country, families marry off their young daughters to improve their position in their tribe. Girls are also married off early to prevent them from entering a relationship and dishonouring the family.

Displacement: Iran hosts almost one million Afghan refugees, in addition to around 2.5 million Afghan residents. Afghanistan has high rates of child marriage, and forced displacement can put girls at an increased risk of being married off due to the lack of protection systems and because families see child marriage as a way to cope with greater economic hardship and to protect girls from violence.

What has this country committed to?

Iran has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Iran ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, but made reservation to articles and provisions which may be contrary to the Islamic Sharia law. Iran is one of few countries that has not signed or ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

During its 2014 Universal Periodic Review, Iran agreed to examine recommendations to abolish laws encouraging the marriage of girls as young as nine, and to amend the Civil Code to bring the minimum age for marriage to 18 years old.

During its 2019 Universal Periodic Review, Iran agreed to review recommendations to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 years for both boys and girls without exception and eliminate the practice of early and forced marriage.

What is the government doing to address this at the national level?

In 2019, the video of the wedding ceremony of a 11-year-old girl and her 22-year-old cousin in rural Iran, and reports of another 11-year-old girl married as a second wife to a man four times her age sparkled public outcry against child marriage in Iran. The images brought pressure on local and national officials and the Vice President of Iran for Women and Family Affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, tweeted that she was going to pursue the matter.

However, while there are some reformist politicians and activists advocating for a change to Iran’s marriage laws, there has been little progress in recent years and the issue remains sensitive.

In 2018, a motion was put together by the Women’s Faction of the Majlis (the national legislative body of Iran) to raise the age of marriage to 16 for girls and 18 for boys. The motion was sent to the Majlis Legal and Judicial Committee, but was dismissed for “contradicting with Islamic jurisdiction, current laws and social norms”.

What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?

Under the Civil Code 2007, marriage “before the age of majority” is prohibited. However the age of majority is 9 lunar years (8 years and 9 months) for girls and 15 lunar years for boys.

Members of the Cultural Commission of Iran have advocated for religious scholars to amend article 1041 of the Civil Code on Marriage Age so that legal authorities can have greater power over deciding whether child marriages can go ahead.

Source

BBC Monitoring, Child brides in Iran: tradition, poverty and resisting change, https://monitoring.bbc.co.uk/product/c200rxfl (accessed March 2020).

Center for Human Rights in Iran, Abuse of 11-Year-Old Child Bride in Iran Sees Some Lawmakers Calling for Reforms, [website], 2019, https://iranhumanrights.org/2019/02/abuse-of-11-year-old-child-bride-in-iran-sees-some-lawmakers-calling-for-reforms/ (accessed March 2020).

Center for Human Rights in Iran, Over 40,000 girls under age 15 married each year in Iran, [website], 2015, https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2015/09/child-marriage/ (accessed March 2020).

Civil Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 2007, https://www.wipo.int/edocs/lexdocs/laws/en/ir/ir009en.pdf (accessed March 2020).

DW, Child marriage in Iran forces girls into a life of oppression, [website], 2017, https://www.dw.com/en/child-marriage-in-iran-forces-girls-into-a-life-of-oppression/a-40450099 (accessed March 2020).

Girls Not Brides, Child marriage in humanitarian settings, 2018, https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Child-marriage-in-humanitarian-settings.pdf (accessed March 2020).

Iran Focus, Iran: Children between 12 and 15 forced into Marriage, [website], 2016, http://www.iranfocus.com/en/index.php?Itemid=111&catid=6&id=31090%3Airan-children-between-12-and-15-forced-into-marriage&option=com_content&view=article (accessed March 2020).

National Institute of Health Research and Deputy for Health, Ministry of Health and Medical Education, Iran Multiple Indicator and Demographic Health Survey, 2010, [unpublished]

The Observer, Rare video of underage marriage in Iran: the ‘bride’ is aged 11, [website], 2019, https://observers.france24.com/en/20190906-video-11-year-old-bride-iran (accessed March 2020).

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Islamic Republic of Iran, 2014, p.22, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/IRIndex.aspx (accessed March 2020).

UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Islamic Republic of Iran, 2019, p. 18, 20 and 21, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/IRIndex.aspx (accessed March 2020).

UNHCR Iran, Refugees in Iran, [website], https://www.unhcr.org/ir/refugees-in-iran/ (accessed March 2020).

UNICEF DATA, Child marriage data, October 2019, https://data.unicef.org/resources/dataset/child-marriage/ (accessed March 2020).

United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg5 (accessed March 2020).

* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old (UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2017)