Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the best age for girls to get married is between 16 and 18, according to Iranian newspapers. But some analysts say such a comment could be part of the government’s efforts to gain support among young voters as election draws neear.
“The best age for marriage is between 16 to 18 for girls and 19 to 21 for boys,” the Mardomsalari newspaper quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.
“We should take the age of marriage for boys to 20 and for girls to about 16 and 17,” the state-owned Jam-e Jam daily quoted the president. “The marriage age for boys has reached 26 and for girls, 24, and there is no reason for this,” the report added.
Since coming to power in 2005, the Iranian president has wanted increase of the country’s population, which is at 75 million, with a third of it being between the ages of 15 and 30.
Ahmadinejad’s popularity has been harmed since the disputed 2009 presidential vote, which the opposition says was rigged to secure his re-election. The authorities deny this. The vote and its aftermath created a rift within the ruling hardline elite.
Early marriage for both men and women was a common practice in Iran. According to the 19th century travelers to Iran, children were often engaged when they were young, although the wedding did not take place for some years. In the past, children were occasionally betrothed in infancy and they would become couples when the female was about 14 and the male about 16 years of age. Although such young marriages have not totally disappeared, legal and actual age of marriage has increased significantly compared to the historical description of child marriages.
For many centuries marriage was basically a religious act and was recorded by a local religious trustee in Iran. In 1930, along with other changes introduced by the modernizing government of Reza Shah, the recording of vital events (birth, marriage, divorce, and death) became secular. Also age of marriage was brought into the domain of civil law and a minimum of age of marriage of 15 years for girls and 18 years for boys was prescribed by law which went into effect for the first time in 1935 (Momeni, 1972).
Article 1041 of the Iranian Civil code, which went into effect in 1935, states “the marriage of females before reaching the full age of 15 and that of males before reaching the full age of 18 is forbidden. Nevertheless, in cases where proper reasons justify it, upon the proposal of the Public Prosecutor and by sanction of the courts exemption from age restriction can be accorded. But in any case exemption from age restriction cannot be granted to females below full age of 13 and for males below the full age of 15.” The law stipulated that all individuals who are instrumental in arranging marriages below the legal minimum age may receive penalties if convicted. (Wikipedia, Iranian law)
Iranian culture and social institutions have been shaped by Islamic values, blended with traditions inherited from the pre-Islamic national religion (Zoroastrianism) and ancient customs.