Iran (MNN) – Since 2021 the number of child marriages in Iran has steadily increased. Many of these marriages involve young girls and men who are at least 10 years older than them.
The Statistical Center of Iran (SCI) reported that 27,448 girls under the age of 15 were married in Iran between December 2021 and November 2022.
Lily Meschi of Iran Alive Ministries says, “Part of it is very much cultural, it is ingrained in the Iranian culture, in the Middle Eastern culture, to really give girls of young age to marriage. Which is a very, very wicked practice.”
Lowering the Marriage Age
Before the 1979 Revolution, women had to be at least eighteen to be married. With the new government in power, that law was abolished, setting the legal age of marriage at thirteen. In 2000 that age was further dropped to pre-puberty if the child’s male guardian gives consent. The age of puberty is defined at ten years old.
“It is legal in Iran to for girls to marry a guy that’s much older than them at age nine,” Meschi states. “That, to me, is absurd. I can’t even fathom what a nine-year-old psychologically goes through when they’re given in marriage at that early age.”
These child marriages often lead to isolation and abuse as young girls struggle to adapt to situations beyond their control.
Personal Trauma and Freedom
Meschi herself was part of an arranged marriage at the age of 18. For fourteen years she suffered in the abusive relationship. Yet, at that point it felt normal. Many of her peers, cousins, and neighbors lived in similar situations.
She explains, “One of the things that keeps the abused, or the victim in isolation is the fear of shame, or fear and shame, I should say. We want to put on a persona that, ‘Hey, we are a whole person even though we are mistreated.’ We are abused. We don’t want others to see the shame that we carry. So as a result, we isolate ourselves. I isolated myself for fourteen long years.”
However, through Christ, Meschi experienced joy and release from her past pain, trauma, and relationship. She was alone for a long time, however, that was not the end of her story. This freedom is something she seeks to help other women experience.
“Through the ministry that I am serving right now at Iran Alive ministries, my lifelong purpose has become to help Iranian women realize their true identity in Christ. Over the years this ministry has been able to share the Gospel – share the love of Christ – with many, many Iranian women. [They] then became agents of transformation in their communities, in their families, and [have] brought so many others to faith.”
Seeing Those Forced into Isolation
Iran Alive provides trauma counseling and other programs aimed to support abused women as well as victims of child marriages.
However, Meschi says that all Christians can support the community of abused women.
“When we see a woman tearing up when we touch on a certain subject of love of care of home of peaceful relationships – be on the lookout to see those signs of if a woman around you get is getting uneasy, is getting teary eyes. Ask, ‘Hey, Is everything okay? Is there anything I can pray for you or with you about? You know, is there anything we can do?’ Let them open up. Create that safe environment for women that are abused to be able to speak with us about the abuse that they’re going through.”
She also asks that the Church prays for freedom for these women and eyes to see them.
Help Iran Alive Ministries support women today.
Header image courtesy of Mostafa Meraji on Unsplash.