Poverty and dire inequality are forcing underage girls into unwanted marriages, a recent report indicates.

According to official government figures and research published by the Iran Student Correspondents Association news agency (Iscanews), there are more than 41,000 registered marriages among underage children in Iran, and the figure is set to rise.

Campaigners urged President Rouhani and his government to take swift action to reduce the number of children marrying each year.

“In a meeting held by the Minister of Justice in 2010, specialists and consultants reported on the increasing rate of marriage among children in certain provinces,” the Iscanews report said. “In 2011, five children under 10 were married in three towns of Hormozgan province. There was also news of marriage of 75 girls and boys under 10 registered in the same year”.

“Based on observations, in district 12 of Tehran, many families force their daughters to marry Iraqi or Afghan men and some have even sold their girls due to extreme poverty.”

“The solution,” said sociologist Saeed Moidfar, “is to decrease poverty and social inequalities to prevent treating children as commodities and sources of income for families.”

Experts warned that girls who married at the age of 15 and younger were at risk of “grave physical and psychological” damage. At such a young age, girls’ bodies were often not fully developed, making sexual intercourse and pregnancy dangerous.

Moidfar warned that child marriages help perpetuate a cycle of economic deprivation, because many of those who enter into these marriages are uneducated and are unable to gain skilled work with higher levels of income.

“These marriages usually happen in uneducated families living in underdeveloped suburbs,” Moidfar said.  “The spread of poverty and social inequality are the main factors in increasing the rate of marriage among children.”

The report cited the case of 15-year-old Zeynab and her 13-year old husband, Behzad, who both live in Kerman Province. The couple recently had a child, one of many coming out of young marriages in Iran’s rural provinces.

According to Moidfar, the children of such marriages usually do not have a birth certificate and therefore cannot go to school as a result. “I have seen children under 12 without birth certificates in one of the well-off centers in Tehran. Most probably they are the fruit of such marriages.”

The website of Iran’s National Registration Office reported that, in 2012, 41,439 girls and 313 boys under the age of 15 entered into marriage.

“Apart from the above officially announced statistics,” Iscanews reported, “there were numerous unregistered marriages among children.” The site said that local religious traditions normally dictated how and when these unofficial marriages took place.

Saeed Moidfar said officials must implement the “necessary cultural, social and economic policies to decrease the rate of such marriages.” He also said that clerics should speak about the issue in mosques, offering guidance to families that might be affected.


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