At least 30,000 girls forced into marriage in Iran
At least 30,000 girls, aged under-14, are forced into marriage every year in Iran, a senior government official has claimed.
Iran's Deputy President for Women and Family Affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar on Sunday lambasted the government for not doing enough to curb the huge number of child marriages in Iran, presenting this harrowing statistic as proof of their frequency.
"In our view, reaching 'intellectual maturity' is enough for marriage," she said, criticising the government for having no solid plans to protect children from marriage.
"But, an under-13-year-old person is truly a child, and if married, would suffer many physical and psychological consequences," she added, according to Radio Farda.
According to Iran's news agency IRNA, Ebtekar said the increase in marriage loans could inadvertently lead to more girls being married.
A governmental bill to ban underage marriages was rejected by the Judiciary Commission of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.
Earlier last year, a parliamentary motion to ban underage marriages was rejected by the parliament's Judicial Commission, after pressure from conservative clerics.
Religious figures in Iran claim that it is Islamically permissible for underage girls to wed once in puberty, as long as their father blesses the marriage.
However, many scholars disagree with this argument saying that - as per Islamic standards - a marriage can only be validated if its approved by the bride. They argue that a girl who has reached puberty is still not mature enough to consent to marriage.
Forced underage marriage is a global problem and affects girls and boys across the world. Children who are compelled to marry often face more physical, emotional and sexual abuse from their spouses, especially as many countries have not criminalised marital rape.
"Married girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 19 with low levels of education are at a much greater risk of domestic and sexual violence from their spouses than older and more educated women," a Human Rights Watch report said.
One of the UN Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015 includes ending child marriage as a key target by 2030 for advancing gender equality.