Legal Status of Child Marriage in International Human Rights Law and the Law of Iran

Document Type : Original Article


1 Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Qom

2 Ph.D. student in International Law, Qom University


Protection of the children is one of the most important concerns in international human rights law. Child marriage is recognized as one of the forms of child abuse. The first step for elimination of child marriage is legal definition of the child. Lots of treaties have tried to determine the minimum age of a person before which he or she cannot marry. This article examines the criteria for recognizing an individual as a child and consequently child marriage in the international human rights system and domestic laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Treaties relating rights of the child do not clarify a specified minimum age for marriage except the Convention on the Rights of the Child in which a child is defined as a person below the age of 18. This criterion is based on an age-oriented approach and is aimed at homogenization of girls and boys. In contrast, in the law of Iran it is based on an interest-oriented one and it is relied on a multiple-criteria approach comprised of legal (physical or sexual) maturity, mental growth, religious maturity and guardian consent which has resulted in a more rational and defensible approach.


Main Subjects

  1. Abbāsi Koleimānī A, The Rights of the Child in Iranian Legal System (first edition, Mizān Publication 2016) [In Persian]
  2. Abdi A and Zamani S Q, 'Margin of Appreciation in Freedom of Religion in the Light of the European Court of Human Rights', (2016), 19 Quarterly Journal of Public Law Research, 61 [In Persian]
  3. Ābed Khorāsānī M R, An Introduction to the Rights of the Child (first edition, Mizān Publication 2010 ([In Persian]
  4. African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (adopted on 28 June 1981, entered into force 21 October 1986) OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 21 I.L.M., 58 (1982)
  5. African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (adopted 1 July 1990, entered into force 29 November 1999) OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/24.9/49 (1990)
  6. Ahmad Panāhi A, 'Marriage in Islam: With a View to Educational and Psychological Functions', (2006), 15 Journal of Knowledge, Religions and Mysticism, 34 [In Persian]
  7. Amato P R; Booth A. J and Rogers, S J, Alone Together: How Marriage in America Is Changing (HUP 2008)
  8. American Convention on Human Rights (adopted 22 November 1969, entered into force 18 July 1978) O.A.S. Treaty Series No. 36, 1144 U.N.T.S. 123
  9. Azari H and Mīrahmadī M, 'Judicial Approaches to Determining the Expediency of Child Marriage', (2020), 10 Journal of Women and Society, 1 [In Persian]
  10. Bakircioglu O, 'The Application of the Margin of Appreciation Doctrine in Freedom of Expression and Public Morality Cases', (2007), 8 German Law Journal, 711
  11. Bosisio R, 'Children’s Right to Be Heard: What Children Think', (2012), 20 The International Journal of Children's' Rights, 141
  12. CAT, 'Concluding Observations on Bulgaria', CAT/C/BGR/CO (2011)
  13. CCPR, 'General Comment No. 19: Article 23 (The Family) Protection of the Family, the Right to Marriage and Equality of the Spouses, Adopted at the Thirty-ninth session of the Human Rights Committee (27 July 1990(
  14. CEDAW and CRC, 'Joint General Recommendation/General Comment No. 31 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and No. 18 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on Harmful Practices', U.N.Doc. CEDAW/C/GC/31-CRC/C/GC/18 (2014(
  15. CEDAW, 'General Recommendation No. 21: Equality in Marriage and Family Relations', U.N. Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.9., (1994)
  16. CEDAW, 'Supplementary Information on the Bangladesh', Scheduled for Review, 65th Session (October 3, 2016)
  17. Chaudhuri ER, Thematic Report: Unrecognized Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children in Child, Early and Forced Marriage (ECPAT International 2018)
  18. Child and Adolescent Protection Law of the Islamic Parliament of Iran (May 2020)
  19. Civil Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran (23 May 1928) available at
  20. Civil Liability Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran (17 May 1960)
  21. Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (24 October 1979, as amended in 8 July 1989) available at
  22. Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages (adopted 10 December 1962, entered into force 9 December 1964) UN  Treaty Series , 521, p. 231
  23. Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in respect to Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children (adopted 19 October 1996, entered into force 1 January 2002)
  24. Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted 20 November 1989, entered into force2 September 1990) UN Treaty Series, vol. 1577, p. 3
  25. CRC, 'General Comment No. 24 on Children’s Rights in the Child Justice System', CRC/C/GC/24 (18 September 2019)
  26. CRC, 'Public reports from children’s rights defenders- Niger' (July 26, 2018); available at:
  27. CRR, 'Fact Sheet: Accountability for Child Marriage', Centre for Reproductive Rights (2013)
  28. Curzon G, Persia and the Persian Question (Longman, Green & Co 1892)
  29. Declaration of the Rights of the Child (20 November 2009) U.N. Doc. A/4354
  30. Emāmī A, Family Law (sixth edition, Mizān Publication 2019) [In Persian]
  31. European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as amended by Protocols Nos. 11 and 14 (adopted 4 November 1950, entered into force 3 September 1953) ETS 5
  32. European Institute for Gender Equality, 'Child Marriage' (2018); available at
  33. Fazlī Khānī A, 'Violation of Children's Rights in the United States', (2011), 18 Quarterly Journal of Women's Rights Studies, 55 [In Persian]
  34. Fortin J, Children Rights and the Developing Laws (second edition, Bulterworths 2003).
  35. Gaffney-Rhys R, 'International Law as an Instrument to Combat Child Marriage', (2011), 15 International Journal of Human Rights, 359
  36. Ghadīrī M, 'Age and Consent to Marriage in Light of International Human Rights Law', (2017), 12 Journal of Family Research, 115 [In Persian]
  37. Haxhitaj A, 'The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights', (2013), 3 Juridical Tribune, 308
  38. Hodgkin R and Newell P, Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (third edition, UNICEF 2007)
  39. Human Rights Watch, '“This Old Man Can Feed Us, You Will Marry Him” Child and Forced Marriage in South Sudan', (2013); available at
  40. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 23 March 1976) 999 UNTS 171 (ICCPR)
  41. Iran's Law on Protection of Children and Adolescents (12 December 2002) IRN-2002-L-91493
  42. Islamic Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran (21 April 2013)
  43. Jackson J, 'Consent of the Parties to Their Marriage', (1951), 14 Modern Law Review, 1
  44. Kadīvar M, The Rights of the People: Islam and Human Rights (fifth edition, Kavīr 2014) [In Persian]
  45. Law on Marriage, approved in (1961, as amended in 1973)
  46. Mir Mohammadī M, Child Rights (Mofid University Press and UNICEF 2013) [In Persian]
  47. Mohaqqeq Dāmād M, Family Law (twentieth edition, SAMT 2021) [In Persian]
  48. Mohaqqeq Hellī J H, Riyāḍ al-Masā'il (T- Al-Hadithah), Volume 8 (first edition, Institute of Ahl-al-Bayt 1984) [In Arabic]
  49. Mohebbī M and Samāvī E, 'The Contribution of Precedent of the European Court of Human Rights to Dynamic Interpretation of Human Rights Treaties', (2018), 35 International Law Review, 7 [In Persian]
  50. Mowbray A, 'The Creativity of the European Court of Human Rights', (2005), 5 Human Rights Law Review, 57
  51. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 'Preventing and Eliminating Child, Early and Forced Marriage' A/HRC/26/22 (2 April 2014)
  52. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (adopted 16 March 2001, entered into force 18 January 2002) A/RES/54/263
  53. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (adopted 25 May 2000, entered into force 12 February 2002) A/RES/54/263
  54. Price Cohen C, 'The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child: A Feminist Landmark', (1997), 3 William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, 28
  55. Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II) (adopted 8 June 1977, entered into force 7 December 1978) 1125 UNTS 609
  56. Rangita S A, Child Marriage and the Law: Legislative Reform Initiative Paper Series (UNICEF 2007)
  57. Safāī S H and Emāmī A, Introductory Course in Civil Law, Volume 2 (tenth edition, Mizān Publication 2010) [In Persian]
  58. Shahīdī S M, Civil Law: Obligations (ninth edition, Majd Publication 2006) [In Persian]
  59. Sharīfī Tarāzkūhī H and Mobīnī J, 'The Application of the Margin of Appreciation Doctrine in the Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights', (2014), 16 Quarterly Journal of Public Law Research, 73 [In Persian]
  60. Sharīfī S, 'Studying the Phenomenon of Child Marriage and Its Relationship with Child Abuse and Mechanisms for Combating It', (2017), Third International Conference on Jurisprudence and Law, Law and Social Sciences, 1 [In Persian]
  61. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (adopted 25 October 1980, entered into force 1 December 1983) Hague XXVIII
  62. UNGA Recommendation on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages (1 November 1965) A/RES/2018(XX)
  63. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 'Preventing and Eliminating Child, Early and Forced Marriage' UN-Doc A/HRC/26/22 (2016)
  64. UN Human Rights Council, 'Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment', UN-Doc A/HRC/31/57 (2016)
  65. UNICEF, Children's Rights in Impact Assessment: A Guide for Integrating Children’s Rights into Impact Assessments and Taking Action for Children (UNICEF and Danish Institute for Human Rights 2013)
  66. UNSC Resolution 2122 [on women and peace and security] S/RES/2122 (2013) (18 October 2013)
  67. US Department of State, '2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- Sri Lanka' (13 April 2016)
  68. Waites M, The Age of Consent: Young People, Sexuality and Citizenship (first edition, Palgrave Macmillan 2005)
  69. Webster M, Academic Content Dictionary, Available online at:
  70. Wijffelman A, 'Child Marriage and Family Reunification: An Analysis under the European Convention on Human Rights and Dutch Forced Marriage Prevention Act', (2017), 35 Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, 104
  71. Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention (adopted 17 June 1999, entered into force 19 November 2000) C182
  72. Zandi R, A Comparative Study of the Right to Proper Nutrition for Children in International Human Rights Law and Law of Iran (MA Dissertation in International law, The University of Qom 2016) [In Persian]
  73. Shahīd Thānī ZA, Al-Rawḍah al-Bahiyyah fi Sharh al-Lama'ah al-Damashqiyyah (Islāmiyah Publication 1988) [Arabic & Persian]
  74. Zermatten J, 'The Best Interests of the Child Principle: Literal Analysis, Function and Implementation', (2010), 18 The International Journal of Children's Rights, 483