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Iranian Government 'Failing To Address' Child Abuse Problem

Iranian children in an undated file photo
A prominent Tehran-based lawyer has accused the government of failing to address the problem of child abuse in Iran, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Nastrin Sotoudeh told Radio Farda that judicial authorities pay little attention to such mistreatment.

"When a man beats his wife or child, the court sees it as a 'private family dispute' and avoids looking into the details of the case," he said.

The state Welfare Organization announced earlier this month that there have been almost 150,000 cases of child abuse recorded in Iran over the last six months.

Sotoudeh said one problem is that children's rights are not taught in school.

She also ascribed what she described as an increase in child abuse to the political atmosphere in the country. She said the violent government crackdown on opposition activists after June's disputed presidential election -- which included charges of torture and sexual abuse of detainees -- has sent a message to the broader society that abuse is acceptable.

Iran has ratified the United Nations 1994 Convention on the Rights of the Child.

But Sotoudeh said the government has failed to live up to the statutes of the convention.

"For instance, based on the convention, the age of criminal responsibility is 18," Sotoudeh said. "However, Iran's civil code sets the [age of criminal responsibility at] 15 years for boys and 8 1/2 for girls."

She said Iran expressed reservations about signing the convention.

It declared when it ratified the document: "[T]he government of the Islamic Republic of Iran reserves the right not to apply any provisions or articles of the convention that are incompatible with Islamic laws and the domestic legislation in effect."