Parliamentarians in Iran have passed a bill to protect the rights of children which includes a clause that allows a man to marry his adopted daughter and while she is as young as 13 years.
According to the bill, which was passed on Sunday, the caretaker of the family can choose to marry his adopted daughter if he believes it is in the family’s best interest.
A court first would have to rule that such a marriage would be in the best interest of the child, on a case-by-case basis. Girls in the Muslim nation already can marry when they’re 13 years old, with the OK of their fathers. Girls who aren’t yet 13 also can marry legally but must obtain the permission of a judge. The union of stepchildren with stepparents is currently forbidden by law.
Shadi Sadr, a human rights lawyer with the London-based group Justice for Iran, warned that the bill implies that the parliament is legalizing pedophilia.
“It’s not part of the Iranian culture to marry your adopted child,” Sadr told The Guardian. “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.”
“You should not be able to marry your adopted children, full stop,” Sadr added. “If a father marries his adopted daughter who is a minor and has sex, that’s rape.”
Sadr also told The Guardian that lawmakers are making vast attempts at downplaying the sexual aspect of such marriages, and are instead focusing on how the bill would “protect” young girls.
The Iranian news site Tabnak estimates that 42,000 children between the ages of 10 and 14 were married in 2010 — and another 75 children under the age of 10 were forced to wed in Tehran in that same year.