This is a case that has prompted sweeping condemnation as the girl seemed to be smiling, evidently oblivious of what was actually happening and the authorities have now moved to annul the marriage and press charges against the adults concerned.
But this has highlighted the situation of hundreds of thousands of girls who are forced into marriage in Iran and countless other parts of the globe and it heart-breaking to see the joy in the face of the child bride because it confirms she simply didn’t realise what was happening around her and it practically looked like she was playing a game with the boy next door.
The phrase child marriage is a dressy language that hides how nasty this practice is and the right title for this should be child rape.
The legal age of marriage in Iran is 13 for a girl and 15 for a boy, according to the country’s understanding of Sharia Law. Nevertheless, marriages can still be carried out at a younger age with the permission of the father or paternal grandfather and with consent from the court judge.
And since March of last year, there have been 43,000 weddings in Iran where the bride was aged 10-15 years old but campaigners say the actual figures are higher as girls from larger and more disadvantaged families, particularly in rural regions, are exchanged in return for money or goods and according to Amnesty International, some 17 per cent of girls in Iran are married before they’re 18 years old.
Girls are usually expected to live with their husbands and Iranian law allows men to engage in sexual behaviour with their wife, regardless of her age, without her permission, in other words, men are permitted to rape their child wives.
But the Iranian Parliament is now said to be contemplating moves to increase legal marriage age, even though they refused a similar move in December of last year and Amnesty International has called on Parliament to equalise the marriage age between girls and boys and take all required steps to ensure that women enter and remain in marriage on the basis of their free choice and the move is getting support in the Iranian Parliament, particularly with female politicians leading the charge.
And transforming culture along with the laws in confronting child marriage is a path that must be taken as similar reports surfaced in Iran earlier this year of an 11-year-old girl who was forced to marry a man four times her age, who then repeatedly raped her.
But under Iran’s Civil Code, men have the right to two permanent wives in polygamous marriages and as many wives as they want in temporary marriages but child marriages are damaging to girls and women and are a form of brutality against them.