Iran is a young country, with more than 28 million inhabitants under the age of 18 in 2011. However, the vast potential of this young, bright population is largely being squandered as a result of poor education policies, discriminatory legislation and insufficient child protections. Iran’s young people face a myriad of major challenges to their development, and it is essential that government and civil society work more closely together to develop long-term solutions.
Over the course of this report, we will engage with three primary clusters of rights taken from the core reporting clusters of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. These core reporting clusters include the right of children to be protected from violence, the right to education, and the right to health. Through an exploration of these three clusters, we hope to illustrate a number of the key obstacles to the happiness and full development of Iran’s young people.
This report will provide an overview of the current landscape around children’s rights in Iran and the challenges facing activists, advocates and children’s rights organisations as they work to improve the situation of young people in the country today. It will achieve this through an analysis of the internationally recognised legal frameworks that guarantee the rights of minors, the national legislation that exists to support these objectives, and a brief overview of a number of areas in which Iran is in violation of internationally recognised norms.
The report will also highlight the specific needs of Iranian children’s rights activists and organisations through a series of interviews with leading figures in the field and an analysis of a number of digital initiatives that have been established to raise awareness and mobilise the public around children’s rightsrelated issues. We will then outline a series of recommendations for the Iranian government, the activist community, and the international community which we hope will prove valuable in the development of future policy in the field of children’s rights, and maximise the opportunities available to Iran’s young people in the coming decades.
Marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights. UNICEF
The continued existence of early and forced child marriage remains a serious obstacle to the realisation of children’s rights worldwide. Child marriage typically results in the abandonment of school, and frequently leads to early pregnancy among young girls, depriving them of their right of education, and creating challenges relating to access to reproductive health.Globally, just under one in five adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 are currently married. Iran is a growing contributor to this worldwide total: as noted in Chapter 1.3.2, child marriage is permitted under Iran’s National Civil Code, and reported incidences are on the increase.
According to Iran’s Association of Children’s Rights, the number of girls married in Iran under the age of 15 increased from 33,383 in 2006 to 39,831 in 2011. According to the Girls Not Brides campaign, the rise in underage marriages can be partly attributed to increases in poverty, and an ongoing desire on the part of conservative families to control their daughter’s sexuality. Even without including unregistered marriages – which are particularly prevalent in rural areas and among undocumented Afghan migrant communities – this increasing number of under-aged marriages is alarming, and undermines the rights of young children to education and health.
Girls are at greater risk of […] forced or early marriage than most boys, a girl who marries early […] may also be cut off from her own family, friends and other sources of social support and be more economically dependent than same age peers who are not married. Furthermore, in societies where girls and women are believed to hold a lower status than boys and men, they may be socialized into thinking that certain forms of violence against them are justifiable, carrying this set of expectations into their marriage at a young age. Research confirms that girls who marry in childhood are at greater risk for intimate partner violence than same-age peers who marry later.
Human Rights Watch supports the observations of children’s rights campaigners in Iran, and stated in its submission to Iran Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2014 that “[c]hild marriage, though not the norm, continues in Iran, where the law provides that girls can marry at the age of 13 and boys at the age of 15; and below such ages with the permission of a judge.”
According to official census statistics, 41,407 girls below the age of 15 were married in the Iranian year 1392 (2012-13), to whom 1,727 babies were born (see Figure 2.1.1a and 2.1.1b). The statistics reported by public bodies have not indicated any marked decline in child marriages since 2007, and there is no evidence that the Iranian government is seeking to limit child marriages as a matter of priority. Consequently, it is of enormous importance that civil society is fully engaged in advocacy efforts around the issue, and that they are supported to act effectively by national and international organisations seeking to support the rights of children.
chile marriages in Iran
As noted earlier in this report, the issue of child marriage was raised on a number of occasions by UN treaty bodies during Iran’s reporting cycles, particularly the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which stated:
the Committee is deeply concerned that the age of marriage in the State party, which is set at 13 years for girls and 15 years for boys, gravely violates rights under the Convention and places children, in particular girls, at risk of forced, early and temporary marriages, with irreversible consequences on their physical and mental health and development.
Responding to this issue, the Committee concluded with the following recommendation:
The Committee urges the State party to revise, as a matter of urgency and priority, its legislation in order to ensure that all persons below the age of 18 years, without exceptions, are considered as children and are provided with all the rights under the Convention. The Committee also urges the State party to further increase the minimum age for marriage for both girls and boys to 18 years, and to take all necessary measures to eliminate child marriages in line with the State party’s obligations under the Convention.
The challenges facing activists working against child marriage are great, owing to the state’s invocation of conservative interpretations of Islamic law as the basis for the practice. Given the inherent difficulties of forcing a top-down transformation in Iranian government policy, a community-based, grassroots approach to combating child marriage may well prove more effective. .
Early marriage is still happening in Iran, for both genders.
The ‘Stop Early Marriage in Iran’ campaign was founded by Reyhaneh Mozafarian, an Iranian writer, researcher, and activist. The campaign aims to raise awareness and change misperceptions around early marriage in Iran. They have a very well-structured website and coherent branding strategies, using orange balloons as their logo (the orange branding was inspired by the visual identity of the UN’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign). This being said, although the conceptualisation of the campaign’s visual identity appears to have received some thought, the execution could stand to be smoother
The ‘Stop Early Marriage in Iran’ website provides stories and testimonies about the impact of young marriage on children, as well as original articles, statistics, and research documenting the problem in Iran and a number of neighbouring countries, including Afghanistan, Turkey, and Georgia. While the other regional case studies are confined to a subsection of the site, the sections dealing with Iran are divided up into very specific categories, each exploring a particular issue of importance: child marriage, child parenthood, child widowhood, child custody, and maternal and infant mortality.
Although the content of new articles is generally quite rich, with many pieces based on statistical data, the blog posts are very text-heavy and are lacking in visual content such as photographs or data visualisations, which would certainly help to make the posts more engaging and accessible for readers. The site is updated with new content on a near-weekly basis.
Although the website is well-developed with a wealth of rich and informative content, the campaign’s social media presence is somewhat less polished. The campaign’s Facebook page has more than 860 likes, though average user engagement is low, with less than 10 engagements per post. The page shares new content shared on the
campaign website at least twice per month – sometimes accompanied by a blog extract, but on occasion merely posting links without context.
Although a good deal of content is being published by the website and pushed to the campaign’s social media pages, there is a sense that very little content is actually making its way into the public domain, or having an appreciable impact upon public discourse around early marriage. Given the richness of statistical and emotive content on the campaign website, it is clear there exists great potential to leverage this knowledge for large-scale public awarenessraising campaigns, so long as sufficient and appropriate support and training is provided to these campaigners.
In particular, the campaign could do with more easily identifiable and immediate calls to action for supporters, as there currently appears to be very little for backers of the campaign to do beyond ‘liking’ the Facebook page, or following the campaign’s updates on Telegram
Interestingly, the website appears to share a Telegram channel with the ‘Stop FGM in Iran’ campaign (profiled in Chapter 3.2.6), with both websites being listed in the Telegram channel’s description. The channel shares articles from the ‘Stop Early Marriage in Iran’ and ‘Stop FGM in Iran’ campaigns, alongside images, animations, videos, and PDF downloads.
The channel shared a user’s contribution on August 7 2016:
“A thought from one of the channel’s users: ‘I personally visited Pasak-e Safla and I saw the situation from up close. I saw a 13 year-old girl holding a 7 month-old toddler in her arms. I don’t know to what extent concealing a problem can help to solve it.’”
This comment refers to a village located in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province, where there is an astronomically high rate of child marriage. According to the figures published by
the Ministry of Education in 2015-2016, no girls in the village attend secondary school. According to data from 2013, more than 1,200 girls between the ages of 11 and 14 years old were married
The above post demonstrates that on Telegram, user engagement with the campaign organisers is fed back into the wider community around the campaign, but besides this feedback mechanism it remains difficult to identify any means for campaign supporters to substantively engage with the campaign, or actively support its objective
the campaign on July 2
It announces the publication of a book written by the founder of the campaign, Rayehe Mozafarian, and was published with a long explanation about the campaign and the problem of child marriage in Iran:
“A new book about early marriage in Iran was recently published in Persian in Iran, named “The Ring”. The book was written by Rayehe Mozafarian, who launched a campaign to stop early marriage in Iran. Both the book and the campaign are intended to identify and share facts related to child marriage, and to examine the causes of this issue.
Rayehe Mozafarian writes in her notes about this book: ‘The causes of child marriage and their parents’ motivations are important to me. Early marriage is seen everywhere, and in any case is not a new phenomenon… [but] the reasons for the continuation of early marriage are varied and dissimilar all around the world.
Given the conditions that exist in the international community, an analysis of Iran’s situation is very important in order to adopt more detailed programmes to defend the futures of at-risk children.
The Stop Early Marriage in Iran campaign (www.stopemiran.com) has been
working for over a year to promote knowledge. Orange balloons are a symbol of this campaign because child marriage and its impacts should not be focused solely on girls. The symbols should not be stereotyped, and dolls for girls or cars for boys should not be selected! Both sexes are interested in balloons, and the image represents childhood. Also, early marriage should not be considered as solely taking place between similar-aged couples. In some cases, children of both sexes are getting married to older partners.”