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Iran Passes Child-Protection Law Following Gruesome Killing Of Teenager

Romina Ashrafi was reportedly killed by her own father for running away with a man.

Iran has passed a law aimed at protecting children from violence days after the gruesome killing of a teenager allegedly by her father.

The legislation, which had been stalled for more than a decade, was ratified on June 7 by the hard-line watchdog Guardians Council, which must approve all bills passed by parliament to make sure they're consistent with the country's constitution and Islamic law.

The move comes following nationwide outrage over last month’s beheading of 14-year old Romina Ashrafi allegedly by her father, the latest apparent case of so called "honor killings."

The killing renewed debate about the need for legal protection for children and women against violence and abuse, resulting in a call by President Hassan Rohani for the speedy passage of relevant legislation.

Some local media suggested that if the child-protection law had passed earlier, it could have saved the life of Romina, who was detained by police and sent home to her father, considered to be her legal guardian, five days after running away with a 28-year-old man.

Under Iran’s Islamic penal code, Romina’s father faces a maximum jail sentence of 10 years if convicted because fathers are considered guardians and, unlike mothers, are exempt from capital punishment for murdering their children.

The young girl had expressed fear over her life due to her father's temperament, Iranian media have reported.

"There is still hope that with the enforcement of this law such incidents can be largely prevented," the Aftabe Yazd daily said on June 8.

The "bill to support children and teenagers does not run contrary to religious law and the constitution and was approved," Guardians Council spokesman Abbas Ali Khadkhodayi was quoted as saying by the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

The powerful body had raised objections and prevented the bill from becoming law after it was forwarded in 2018 for approval by parliament.

Iran's vice president for women's and family affairs, Massoumeh Ebtekar, said on Twitter on June 8 that the approved legislation was "one of the most progressive laws for child rights in the world."

But lawyer and child rights activist Monica Nadi said the law was far from offering "comprehensive and complete" protection for children, though adding that despite some shortcomings, the legislation does make significant progress.

"It includes features that elevates our situation regarding child protection several degrees higher," Nadi was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

A full text of the legislation has not been made public.

A 2018 text called for punishments for violent and abusive behavior toward children under the age of 18, including physical violence, sexual abuse and prostitution, as well as economic exploitation.

RFE/RL's Radio Farda has reported that the new law also stipulates that issues such as "communicating with children and adolescents on the Internet and social networks aimed at harassing them," "selling tobacco to children," and employing children and "exploiting" them are considered punishable offenses.