By Golnaz Esfandiari
The girl is said to be around 11. The man is reportedly twice her age. They were recently wed in a remote southwestern Iranian province with a video of the ceremony posted online.
Shock and outrage followed and within days authorities in the province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad announced that the temporary marriage between the child and the man has been annulled.
In the video, the small girl in a vibrant local bridal gown is seen sitting next to a man in a white shirt who looks old enough to be her father.
A man, later described as a cleric, is heard officiating the matrimonial ceremony and asking the consent of the child bride three times, in accordance with Iranian tradition.
“With the consent of my mother and father, [I do],” the child finally says while quickly covering her face. Cheers and loud clapping follow.
The provincial prosecutor, Hassan Negin Taji, told the semiofficial ISNA news agency that indictments had been issued against the groom, the caretakers of the child, and the cleric who officiated the ceremony because the marriage violated Article 50 of Iran’s family law, which states that if a man marries a girl who has not reached the legal age he will be sentenced from six months to two years in prison.
Iran’s legal age for girls to be married is 13 with parental consent — but girls younger than that can only be married with permission from a judge. For boys, the legal age for marriage is 15.
Taji said the child and the man had entered a “temporary marriage” to get to know each other without violating Islamic norms and were due to be officially wed in six years.
He said the girl was in her 11th year, according to a copy of her birth certificate, and that the man is 22. Some reports said the girl was only nine and the man was 33 years old.
“We realized that the girl has little awareness at such a young age and it’s not advisable for her to be in a temporary marriage,” Taji told ISNA on September 3.
“Therefore, the wedding contract was annulled so that they can get married in due time after obtaining permission from a court,” he said.
The video was posted online by journalist Javad Heydarian, who later said he wanted to create “a public warning” to help prevent such marriages from taking place.
‘Not The First Time’
He said child marriages in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad are not widespread, but added that they’re also not rare.
“This is not the first or the last time [such a marriage will occur],” he said.
The incident led to renewed calls for raising the legal age of marriage in Iran for girls and boys, where thousands of child marriages are recorded every year.
Last year, the parliamentary Committee For Judicial and Legal Affairs rejected a motion to ban the marriage of girls younger than 13 amid opposition from deputies who claimed such a restriction would contravene Islamic law.
Lawmaker Parvaneh Salahshouri suggested that a higher authority had told her colleagues to oppose the motion. She did not elaborate on her claim.
“We haven’t lost hope, but the conditions [to get such a law passed] are very difficult,” she said in an interview with the official government news agency IRNA.
According to statistics released by Iran’s National Organization for Civil Registration, from March 2013 to March 2017, 1,007 girls under the age of 10 and more than 190,000 girls younger than 14 were married in Iran.