Iran's vice president for women's issues and family affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi, says she is planning to take action against a newly passed law that allows adult caregivers to marry their adopted children or stepchildren.
The law was passed by Iran's parliament on September 22 and approved by the Guardians Council in early October, despite widespread criticism. The Guardians Council is in charge of vetting all of parliament’s bills before they can become law.
A footnote in one of the articles of the legislation that is supposed to protect the rights of children and adolescents has been the main cause of the controversy.
The footnote says adult caregivers can marry non-blood related children who are in their custody if it is demanded by the country’s Welfare Organization and if a court rules that it would be beneficial to the child.
Molaverdi says she and several female lawmakers are planning measures to change the controversial article.
In an interview
earlier this week with the reformist daily, “Shargh,” Molaverdi said, "Some senior clerics we met were critical of the ‘Law for the Protection of Children and Adolescents Without Guardians or With Bad Guardians’ and disapproved it. Therefore, with the cooperation of lawmakers, we're preparing to send a “double urgency” bill to the parliament to change that article of the law before it's too late."
Molaverdi did not provide a time frame for her action against the controversial law. But she said that a legal team is already working on the bill that could lead to the changes in the disputed article.
Successful action against the law would be an encouraging sign for human rights defenders and others who have blasted the parliament's bill as immoral and warned that it would pave the way for pedophilia and incest. Many said that instead of spelling out conditions for such marriages, the parliament should have banned them.
According to Islamic laws enforced in Iran, girls can be married as young as 13 and boys at 15 with the permission of their fathers.
Supporters of the law argue that it provides protection for children.
Amir Hossein Ghazi, a member of the Iranian parliament’s social issues committee, advocated for the law by saying it would prevent caregivers from marrying children in their custody without any condition or restriction, which they have long been able to do.
"The parliament has created some restrictions for the marriage of adopted and neglected children…. As such it prevents the possibility of abuse,” he told the semi-official Mehr news agency.
Critics say the law will endanger families and children.
Among them is Shiva Dolatabadi
, head of Iran's Society for the Protection of Children's Rights.
"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 turn adopted children and stepchildren into objects of sexual desire.
In an op-ed piece published last month by 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."
-- Golnaz Esfandiari