More than 1,077,000 female child marriages have been registered in Iran in the last eight years, including 13,500 involving girls under the age of 13, with an untold number more taking place off the books.
The Civil Registration Organization’s annual report for 2021 notes that the number of marriages involving girls under the age of 18 increased by 9,000 on the previous year, reaching a total of 118,000 known cases. The ratio of child to total marriages has increased to 21.15 percent, the highest since 2014.
Analysis by Iran Open Data shows that after a period of relative decline, the number of reported incidents has spiked again after the pandemic. The highest number of child marriages on record was still logged in 2014, with nearly 170,000 known cases, accounting for 34.21 percent of all marriages registered in Iran that year.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child considers anyone under the age of 18 to be a child. Iran has yet to ratify the convention, while Article 1041 of the country’s Civil Code allows for the marriage of girls under the age of 13, with the “consent of the guardian” and the “expediency” of a judge.
Iran Open Data also reports that in the last eight years, on average 21 percent of women who got married were aged 17 or younger at the time. Under-15s accounted for five percent of the total in the same period.
But in Ardebil in 2021, some 55 percent of all marriages recorded in 2021 involved girls aged under 18. The next highest child marriage rates were recorded in Zaveh, Razavi Khorasan, and Bostan Abad in East Azerbaijan. In 2021, according to the official data, the highest ratios of underage marriages were registered in Sistan and Baluchistan, North Khorasan and Razavi Khorasan.
Mashhad, the Shia holy city and capital of Razavi Khorasan, registered the highest number of all followed by Ahvaz, Tabriz, Zahedan, Ardabil, and Qom.
The provinces with the highest known ratio of marriages of girls under the age of 15 were Zanjan, North Khorasan, and Razavi Khorasan, and of girls under 13 in Zanjan, Sistan and Baluchistan, and East Azerbaijan. There was also a high rate of marriages involving under-13s recorded in Khodabandeh, Bostanabad and Quchan counties.