While President Rouhani is busy working the US-Iran angle in the overall focus on Middle East peace talks, nuclear progress and possible sanction lifting from the US, the internal workings of Iran go on. Apparently, so does the legalization of pedophilia.
In recent news regarding family advocacy and protection in Iran, a law was passed that was intended to protect children who lacked the support of immediate family. This law is called the “The Protection of Children and Adolescents without Guardians or with Bad Guardians”.
Sounds really nice and thoughtful, right?
While there are many ways this story can play out, let’s just look at the obvious worst case scenario. The law states that it is allowable for a man, a stepfather, to marry his step or adopted daughter, as long as she is 13 years old and that union is approved by a judge. The law states that it is his right to request this action.
The law repeals a previous bit of legislation passed by parliament earlier this year that forbade these types of marriages. However, the Council of Guardians, a clerical body dominated by conservatives, rejected the earlier law, finding it against Sharia law.
Even better, it seems that the Hijab, the traditional head scarf worn by Muslim women to cover themselves, is the justification behind the legislation.
According to Shadi Sadr, a human rights lawyer for Justice for Iran, officials have attempted to play down the sexual part of these marriages; they claim that the bill was designed to solve the issue of hijab [head scarf] concerns when a child is adopted. According the Sharia law, an adopted girl is expected to wear the hijab in front of her father, and a mother should wear it in front of her adopted son if he is old enough, Sadr said.
An open critic of the law, Shiva Dolatabadi, head of Iran's Society for the Protection of Children's Rights had this to say.
"A mother who has adopted a daughter cannot be an adoptive mother if in her remotest thoughts she sees that daughter as her [potential] replacement,” she told Iranian media. “On the other hand, it is highly unlikely that a mother who views her adopted son as a potential husband can have a healthy family."
Touran Valimorad, the head of the Alliance of Islamic Women, has also warned that the law could change the entire nature of adopted children and stepchildren by making opening the avenue for them to be objects of sexual desire.
In an op-ed piece in the "Etemad" daily, she wrote: "An individual who accepts being the mother or the father of a child that is without guardians should free her or his mind and actions of any lust. Leaving the possibility of marriage open in the eyes and hearts of these people makes a sexual relationship possible and this will lead to a sin."
So why is marriage the chosen answer here?
Forget creating any amendments that say once two adults are married, their female daughters can forgo the hijab at home. Forget adoption as a reason to consider two people family.
Naturally, marriage is the ONLY option viable in this situation. How brilliant of you Iran.
Iranian women’s groups and human rights activists both inside Iran and outside the region have rallied protests against the law on Facebook and other social media forums.
The bottom line here is that the law basically legalizes pedophilia, child abuse and rape under the legal heading that the government is protecting children. Most Iranians citizens were unaware of the controversial nature of the bill until the second run through parliament last month.
In an interview with the Guardian, Sadr expressed that she feared the council would feel secure passing this bill while the rest of the world is only focusing on Iran’s US-UN interactions.
"This bill is legalizing pedophilia," she warned. "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 legalizing pedophilia and is endangering our children and normalizing this crime in our culture."
She added: "You should not be able to marry your adopted children, full stop. If a father marries his adopted daughter who is a minor and has sex, that's rape."
To voice your opinion on this issue, you can message President Hassan Rouhani directly on Twitter @hassanrouhani as well as reach out to Shadi Sadr who is currently advocating against this law on her blog, Shadi Sadr.
Her latest Twitter post from @shadisadr directs followers to the UN Treaty Body Webscast.
By Jennifer James
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