Islamic Republic of Iran: promoting Violence Against Children

Islamic Republic of Iran: Promoting Violence Against Children

Rouhi Shafii

December 2013-10-18


Children in Iran are prone to violence and maltreatment and deprived of their childhood due to laws and practices which do not represent the best interest of the child.  Article 1041 of Iran’s Civil Law permits children under the age of puberty, boys under 15 and girls under 9 lunar years to be married but this age can be lowered by the application of the father or the male guardian to the courts. An inclusion to article 27 of the  “Child Protection Act for Unsupervised or Ill supervised Minors”  ratified and approved on 2 October 2013 by the Guardian Council will allow legal guardians to marry the adopted child.  This inevitably will give rise to paedophilia at home.

One in 5 children age 6-11 face abuse at home by caregivers and corporal punishment in schools is common.* Execution of juveniles rates top among countries that practice death penalty. Poverty has given rise to street children. According to Iranian Children’s Rights Society, in Tehran around 25,000 to 30,000 children live as street children and around 100 to 150 are killed every month for various reasons.  Children who live in prison with their incarcerated mothers suffer from physical and psychological violence.

Violence against children is varied and covers a wide range of areas and it would not be possible to review all in one paper. 

In 2012, ICAVI initiated a research project on child abuse in Iran’s prisons. This is an ongoing research and the final findings will be published. 

However, this paper will focus on three areas of child abuse in Iran:

  • 1 – Children with their incarcerated mothers
  • 2-   Child execution
  • 3-  Legalising Paedophilia: adoption and the new bill which grants the right to parent marry the adopted child.
  1. Children living with their incarcerated mothers

There are no specific provisions in prison laws for women and their children who are accompanied with their mothers or born while mother spends time in prison. Of the 234 articles and many more sub-articles of the prison regulations which deal comprehensively with prison and prisoners, only one article (Article 69) refers to women and children.  Otherwise, laws governing prisons does not refer to gender, ethnic, religious, sexual or political orientation of the prisoners. Article 69 of prison regulations states that: “Prisoners will be allocated a place in the vocational courses according to their background and the sub-article indicates that female prisoners can bring their children up to the age of two but in the same line it states that in every prison there should be a separate place for children 2-6 years of age. Alternatively, they should go under state care.”* 

Our preliminary research findings support what women prisoners have reported on the situation of children who are under the custody of their incarcerated mothers and stay in prison and face the chronic lack of access to adequate food, hygiene, personal care and provision of health and safety. In practice, prison regulations are not carried out as stipulated in the prison laws. In one case study, the mother talked of horrors her 4 year old child had witnessed. The abuse of children in prisons goes unnoticed as they live in the same quarters with mothers and other inmates. Physical abuse of pushing, kicking, stopping from going to the toilet, lack of air circulation (too cold or too hot), lack of adequate medical care, lack of educational programmes. Psychological abuse of children include: use of profane language, shouting & making threatening noises, torturing mother in front of the child and separating mother from child for some period of time.

In the framework of rights of children in Iran, two basic issues need to be reformed; legislation and regulation system on the one hand, and the contractual disorders on the other hand. However, there are many issues that derive from the political function of the government. As in the context of politic dominant in jurisdiction system, the government can apply any element and effects against prisoners using any sort of pressure, and sometimes deliberately resorting to torture regardless of the condition and the age of the prisoner.

Children who live with their incarcerated mothers who have been involved in criminal acts often come from families where the father is absent or in prison himself.




1- Article 49 Penal Code of Iran, and article 1210 Civil Code

2-Committee on the Rights of the Child (28 June 2000, CRC/C/15/Add.123, Concluding observations on initial report, pages. 37, 38, 39 and 40

3-Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners  Adopted by the First United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held at Geneva in 1955, and approved by the Economic and Social Council by its resolutions 663 C (XXIV) of 31 July 1957 and 2076 (LXII) of 13 May 1977

4- Regulations adopted by the separation and classification of prisoners Judiciary 9/9/1385 (2006)
Council oversees the implementation of Article 9 of prison regulation supply and adopted by the Parliament 

5- International campaigns for human rights in Iran – 2009

6- Association for the Defense of Prisoners Rights, A Report of Prisons Statutes in Iran 1386 (2007)

7- Seminar reports of Women information and studies centre in Iran 2008 – Supreme council

2- Child execution

The previous penal code categorised crimes according to punishment. The punishment is differentiated by their theological, judicial or legislative origins.

  1.  Qesas is a retributive form of punishment specified in Shari’a (i.e. Islamic law) in which punishment should be equal to the crime. The penalty for homicide is death unless the family accepts financial compensation.
  2. Hodoud is a punishment for which the degree and type has been specified in Shari’a. It covers crimes such as sodomy, adultery, moharebeh (enmity to God).
  3. Ta’zir punishment for narcotics, smuggling and which degree and type is left to the discretion of the judge.  Death penalty for smuggling narcotics is a Ta’zir crime under Iran’s Anti-narcotic law.

The new penal code largely maintains the same categories of crime and the new punishments more or less the same. , The Islamic Republic of Iran  announced that it had abolished child execution. 

Yet, according to articles 145 and 146 of the new penal code, the age of criminal responsibility is still “puberty”, meaning 9 lunar years for girls and 15 for boys.

Under article 87, execution for discretionary punishments had been abolished for children under 18, replaced with correctional measures.  Although this article abolishes execution of juveniles for certain crimes, most juvenile executions are for Qesas homicide-related crimes.

Article 90 of the new penal code stipulates legally ‘mature’ individuals under 18 (boys 15-18 and girls 9-18)  who are convicted of Hodud and Qesas may be exempted from adult sentences-death penalty- if it is established they were not mentally mature at the time of the crime

Although the new Code had been an improvement of the Islamic penal code in execution of juveniles, Iran still holds the highest rate of child executions.

According to human rights organisations reports, since January 2005 of the 32 executions of juvenile offenders in the world, 26 occurred in Iran. In 2007, Iran executed 8 juveniles. Although Iran is a signatory to conventions on the right of child – CRC- which provides that: “Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed below eighteen years of age”.  And ICCPR- which declares: “sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age, and –

Yet, in July 2008, Stop Child Executions Campaign recorded 130 children facing death in Iran.*

3- Legalising paedophilia

The Guardian Council’s approval and confirmation of the ‘Unsupervised or Ill Supervised Children and Youth Protection Bill’ means that the Bill has become law

Although the Act has some positive points in its entirety such as the right to single women to adopt a child and the adopted child’s right to inheritance, and father’s pension, it also has many ambiguities and other objectionable articles. However, none are as dangerous to the moral, mental and physical integrity of the child (particularly the girl child) as article 27 of the said Bill. According to article 27 of the Bill the legal guardian can marry the child Article 27 of the Bill could lead to the girl child being adopted for nefarious Purposes and at risk of abuse by paedophiles. The legislator seems to disregard the fact that based on national laws as well as article 21 of

CRC and all other related documents the child’s best interest

is paramount in any placement. Here, instead of taking steps to

criminalise any such act the Guardian Council has legalised it.*

Already, child abuse at home is rife in Iran, although documentation is rare but it is believed that this article would give rise to paedophilia as the father might consider the female daughter a potential wife and sexually abuse her in childhood. On the other hand, the mother would see the girl as a potential rival in the coming years and decline the care and love the child needs to develop to full potential.

Iran is a state signatory to all conventions on the right of child and human rights activists and women’s rights and those who work for the welfare of the children demand amendments to article 27 from the new Act on legal guardianship in Iran before it reaches implementation.



Abuse, violence and maltreatment of children in Iran, either in the private sphere or the public have become a chronic phenomenon. The laws and practices in many cases do not take the best interest of the child at heart. Many aspects of violence derive from poverty, ignorance and traditional practices on the one hand and lack of understanding of the needs of modern society and their introduction into law and practice on the other. 

 As with the case of children living with their incarcerated mothers in prison, suggestion is:

  • Provisions of proper care both physically and psychologically in prisons whereas if the child is deprived of a choice to live outside the prison environment, she/he can still benefit from minimum care inside.

As with the case of child execution, suggestion is:

  • Immediate halt to all cases, where the offence has taken place by a juvenile below the age of 18.   

As with Article 27 of the adoption Bill which allows parents to marry the adopted child, suggestion is:

  • Revision of the Bill and the exclusion of Article 27 in its entirety. Instead, the inclusion of an article stating an adopted child must be treated as one’s own child and not a potential future spouse.


Rouhi Shafii is an author, sociologist and director of ICAVI- International Coalition Against Violence in Iran

You may also like...