Official Iranian government statistics show that tens of thousands of girls under the age of 15 are married off by their families each year in Iran.
The numbers may actually even be quite higher. Many families in Iran do not register underage marriages, or do so illegally, according to attorney Shima Ghoosheh, who spoke to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
On August 17, 2015, Majid Arjomandi, the head of Emergency Social Services at Iran’s State Welfare Organization, said that uninformed families tend to marry off their daughters before they reach 15. “Unfortunately that’s the reason why in recent years 360 girls under 14 have been married and ten of them were under 10,” he said.
However, Arjomandi’s statistics are dwarfed by other reports. On August 18, 2015, the Shahrvand newspaper published a report that put the number of registered underage marriages at more than 40,000 in 2014 alone.
“The National Organization for Civil Registration statistics show that in the past year, 40,404 girls under the age of 15 and 32,587 boys under the age of 20 have registered their marriages. According to the most recent statistics of the National Organization for Civil Registration, 419,488 girls under the age of 15 and 484,885 boys under the age of 20 got married between 2004 and 2014,” Shahrvand reported.
Lawyer Shima Ghoosheh told the Campaign that the official marriage age for girls is 13, because the government considers them to be sexually and mentally mature. “Thirteen-year-old girls can legally get married. But even if a girl is under 13, her father can ask a judge’s permission for her to marry,” she said.
Ghoosheh added that it is more important to raise social awareness before raising the legal marriage age to 18. “If people aren’t culturally prepared, and unaware and mistrustful of children’s rights, they will break the law,” she told the Campaign.
In his 2014 report to the United Nations, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmad Shaheed, said “at least 48,580 girls between 10 and 14 years of age were married in 2011, 48,567 of whom were reported to have had at least one child before they reached 15 years of age. Some 40,635 marriages of girls under 15 years of age were also registered between March 2012 and March 2013, of which more than 8,000 involved men who were at least 10 years older. Furthermore, at least 1,537 marriages of girls under 10 years of age were registered in 2012, which is a significant increase compared with the 716 registered between March 2010 and March 2011.”
In late 2013, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) published official statistics from the National Organization for Civil Registration that showed births by mothers under the age of 19 made up 8.1 percent of all births in the country. According to this report, in 2012 there were four births by girls under the age of 10, 17 births by girls under the age of 11, 50 births by girls under the age of 12, 275 births by girls under the age of 13, 1,289 births by girls under the age of 14, 4,377 births by girls under the age of 15, 10,637 births by girls under the age of 16, 19,881 births by girls under the age of 17, and 31,494 births by girls under the age of 18.
Based on latest charts published by the National Organization for Civil Registration, Shahrvand reported that the highest number of marriages in 2014 took place between men ages 20-24 with women ages 15-19. In the same year there were 11 marriages between girls under 15 years of age with men between the ages of 55 and 59.