According to a story published in The Guardian, Iran has passed a law, which if approved by the Guardian Council, would allow men to marry their adopted daughters once the child reaches the age of 13.
Human rights activists have expressed dismay that the bill opens the door for men to use the law to marry their own adopted daughters if the court rules that it’s in the interest of the child.
In Iran girls under the age of 13 can still be legally married, but it requires a judge’s approval.
Shadi Sadr, a human rights lawyer with the London-based group Justice for Iran said that law essentially legitimises child abuse.
“This bill is legalising paedophilia,” she said. “It’s not part of the Iranian culture to marry your adopted child. Obviously incest exists in Iran more or less as it happens in other countries across the world, but this bill is legalising paedophilia and is endangering our children and normalising this crime in our culture.”
Iranian officials are arguing that the law has been enacted out of practicality since adopted girls are forced to wear a hijab around their fathers.
‘With this bill, you can be a pedophile and get your bait in the pretext of adopting children,’ Sadr said.
Whether or not the law will get the final stamp of approval by the country’s Governing Council is still a question but the outcry among activists has been vocal.
Underage marriage is a real concern in the country where it has been reported that there were 42,000 children between the ages of 10 and 14 who were married in 2010.
In 2012, the Legal Affairs Committee of the Majles (the Iranian parliament) told the press that they regard the law that prohibits girls below the age of 10 from being married off as “un-Islamic and illegal.”
In August of this year, a court in India’s capital stirred up controversy when it said marriage with an underage girl was permissible under Indian Law.
The city court in Delhi said that provisions of the the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence (POCSO) Act suggested that where a physical relationship is undertaken with a minor girl – which is neither sexual assault nor has consent been taken by unlawful means – no offence can said to have been committed.
According to a Times of India report, the court made these observations while acquitting a 22-year-old native of West Bengal of charges of kidnapping and raping a 15-year-old girl, with whom he had eloped and later married.