The bill on the rights of children has been stalled in the parliament for years, just as the bill on violence against women was stalled for eight years, before being totally overhauled.
Renamed and transmuted, the bill now contains no effective or sufficient guarantee to prevent violence against women, while it fails to criminalize sexual harassment, rape, and sexual exploitation of women, and punish the assailant. It also excludes single women, girls under 18, and victims of social harms from being covered by the bill.
The bill to increase the age of marriage for girl children in Iran had the same destiny, being rejected in December 2018 by the Legal and Judicial Committee of the parliament for containing “religious and social deficiencies” and for contradicting “the teachings of Islam.”
Obviously, the mullahs ruling Iran have nothing to do with these international goals pursued since 2012, by naming October 11th as the International Day of the Girl Child, to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
Iranian girl children accountable before the law at age 9
The Iranian Constitution sets 9 the legal age of criminal accountability for girl children in Iran and the mandatory dress code forces them to cover their hair since the first day of school at age 6.
Instead of ensuring their health and education, the clerical regime holds appalling annual coming of age ceremonies, called “jashn-e taklif”, where 9-year-old girls are recognized as religiously mature and have to account before the law.
In their view, homemaking and bearing and raising children are the main responsibility of any girl or woman.
Iranian girl children are effectively marginalized from very young age by restrictive laws before they can comprehend and demand their human rights.
School dropouts, illiteracy and child labor
There are approximately 15 million school-age children in Iran, half of them girls. Estimates vary from 2 to 4 million on the number of children who are left out of school and deprived of education mainly because their parents do not afford to send them to school. Education is neither free nor mandatory in Iran.
The general director of the Department of Education in Kermanshah Province (western Iran) acknowledged that they do not afford to enroll the children left out of school, because they need 9 million tomans ($782) for each child. “The Education Department does not have such a budget,” he added. (The state-run BORNA news agency – October 4, 2019)
The latest estimates put the number of illiterates in Iran around 11 million, i.e. 13 per cent of the population, two-thirds of whom are women and girls. (The state-run salamatnews.com, September 26, 2018)
A 2015 report by the presidential Directorate on Women and Family Affairs described the state of illiteracy of women and girl children in Iran as alarming, adding that the situation was critical in some 40 cities.
Economic bankruptcy is one of the main contributors to poverty which in turn contributes to deprivation from education and illiteracy. Rouhani has ordered shut down of many schools in rural communities over the past few years to cut down on budget.
At least a quarter of Iranian students are forced to quit school every year, a large number of whom join the estimated 3 to 7 million child laborers. This is according to a member of the mullahs’ parliament. (The state-run salamatnews.com, September 27, 2017)
Abbas Soltanian, deputy for mid-level education in the Ministry of Education, announced last year, “A total of 4.23 per cent of students dropped out of school in the previous academic year. Girl students constituted 4.17 per cent of it, meaning that there is a big difference between girls’ and boys’ drop outs.” (The state-run ILNA news agency – June 25, 2018)
Inadequate educational spaces, hazardous transportation
Girl children in Iran are also victims of substandard structures of schools and unsafe transportation in light of the irresponsible approach of education officials and staff. Every year, a number of young girls lose their lives while on the road to school, under a collapsed wall or ceiling, or in fire. Unsafe heating systems have also caused repeated poisoning of students.
Four pre-school and elementary girl students lost their lives in a fire on December 18, 2018, at a girls’ school in Osveh Hassaneh in Zahedan, capital of Sistan and Baluchestan Province. The victims were Mona Khosroparast, Maryam Nokandi, Saba Arabi, and Yekta Mirshekar who died two days later in hospital. (The state-run Tasnim news agency – December 18, 2018)
A worn-out minibus overturned on the road in Gha’emshahr, northern Iran, on January 15, 2019, leading to the death of a young girl and wounding of another. (The state-run Tabnak website – January 16, 2019)
On January 26, 2019, the car used for a school transportation in Mashhad, northeastern Iran, overturned on the road. Three girl students, a boy and the female driver of the car were injured.
Twenty-five girls were poisoned on January 29, 2019, after being exposed to carbon monoxide leak from the heating system in their classroom in the girls’ elementary school in Bam, Kerman Province. (The state-run ISNA News Agency – January 29, 2019)
In a bitter incident in Salas-e Babajani in Kermanshah Province, fire broke out at a girls’ elementary school on January 30, 2019, due to inadequate and hazardous heating systems in the classrooms, burning down the classrooms.
Leila Osmani, 12, and Abbas Osmani, 13, lost their lives when a school minibus crashed with a trailer truck on the Omidiyeh to Mahshahr axis. Ten other students were injured in this accident. (The state-run Jamaran Website – February 6, 2019)
The ceiling of a girls’ secondary school in Rasht was burned due to the short circuit of the electrical wiring on the roof of the school. (The state-run Tabnak Website – February 6, 2019)
Twenty elementary school girls were injured, some in critical conditions, on the way back from camping when their minibus collided with another car in Fasa, southern Fars Province. (The state-run Rouydad24 Website, April 10, 2019)
Eleven high school girls from Kermanshah got wounded with broken arms and legs when their minibus overturned on Kangavar-Sahneh road. The accident was reported on April 22, 2019. (The state-run ISNA news agency, April 22, 2019)
Three young girls drowned while drinking water from a Hootag. The tragic incident took place in Chabahar, in the deprived Sistan and Baluchestan Province, on May 29, 2019.
In the absence of pipelines and even tankers, people in this region dig ditches to collect rain as a water reservoir for both humans and animals. Monireh Khedmati, Maryam Khedmati and Sierra Delshab were studying in the second and third grade. (The official IRNA news agency – May 29, 2019)
And finally, a case which must never be forgotten. In December 2012, the elementary girls’ school of Shinabad village caught fire due to mal functioning of a kerosene heater. 37 girls severely burned in the fire, leading to two deaths. The girls and their families were promised compensation, but officials never delivered.
Shinabad was not the only fire incident inflicting serious injuries on Iranian girl children. A similar case emerged last April, when six who had suffered burns in a fire incident at their school in Doroodzan, travelled to Tehran to hold a sit-in protest and demand assistance for their treatment and its high costs. Each of the six girls, now 20 years old, suffered more than 50% injuries in a fire incident 13 years ago at their school in the southern Fars Province. In their case, too, none of the promises for their treatment have been delivered.
While the Iranian regime spends billions of dollars on war in Syria and Yemen and on missile tests and terrorist activities, it allocates a little budget for the country’s infrastructures, schools and universities.
Early, forced marriages are violence against Iranian girl children
Institutionalized in the clerical regime’s laws, the legal age of marriage for Iranian girl children is 13 years, and they can be given to marriage even younger if the father and a judge decide that they are mature enough.
In view of the bankrupt economic situation in Iran, rampant unemployment, and 80% of the population living under the poverty line, forced marriage of girl children has turned into the only way for a large number of families in Iran to reduce their expenses or earn some income.
Forced early marriage is also the most significant contributor to school dropouts among girl children in Iran.
In addition to creating various mental and physical problems for young girls, forced early marriages of girl children in Iran have paved the way for a plethora of social ills such as early divorces, child widows, domestic violence against women and murder.
The number of early marriages of girl children in Iran has seen a delirious rise in recent years. Ali Kazemi, advisor for the legal deputy of the Judiciary Branch, announced on March 4, 2019, that in the course of just one year (March 2018-March 2019), some 5 to 6 hundred thousand (600,000) child marriages had taken place in Iran. (The state-run ILNA news agency- March 5, 2019)
This is three to four folds the previous official statistics of 180,000 early marriages per year. (The official IRNA news agency, August 5, 2018)
Forced marriage is one of the main reasons of suicide in the absence of any form of legal support for young women. There have numerous instances over the past year where young women committed suicide in protest to forced marriage before or after it took place.
So far, the notary registrars of a few provinces have announced the following stats for early marriages in their region for 2018:
1054 marriages of girls 10-14 years in North Khorasan, (the state-run IRNA news agency- April 20, 2019); 1400 marriages of girls under 14 in Zanjan, (the state-run ISNA news agency- April 16, 2019); 4400 marriages of girls 10-14 years in Ardabil, (the state-run IRNA news agency – September 4, 2019); 914 marriages of girls 10-14 years and 6 under-10 in Golestan, (the state-run salamatnews.com, February 26, 2019); 326 marriages of girls under 14 in Bushehr, (the state-run ISNA news agency – September 11, 2019); 94 marriages of girls under 15 in Ilam, (the state-run IRNA news agency – February 5, 2019), and 1596 marriages of girls under 15 in Hamadan. (The official IRNA news agency – May 29, 2019)
The Convention on the Child Rights reiterates that a child becomes mature at the age of 18, thus child marriages violate this convention and other international laws.
Early marriages are considered violence against women and are the worst form of oppression of Iranian girl children and future women of Iran.