Children in Iran Should Be Protected from Numerous Rights Violations
November 20 Marks Universal Children’s Day
Begun in 1954 by the UN, Universal Children’s Day, (now called World Children’s Day) is observed each year on November 20 to promote the welfare of the world’s children. The UN’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child states, “The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation.
He shall not be the subject of traffic, in any form” and “shall not be admitted to employment before an appropriate minimum age.” In all these areas, Iran fails to comply. Iran is a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child—but has asserted it will not apply any provision “incompatible with Islamic laws or [domestic] legislation.”
The age of criminal responsibility in Iran is 9 for girls and 15 for boys, despite international law that defines anyone under age 18 as a child. Child marriage is allowed at age 13 for girls (and younger with consent of the father and a judge) and 15 for boys. Iran’s laws leave children deeply unprotected from physical and sexual abuse, and Iran’s weak and poorly enforced labor regulations result in millions of children in the workforce.
The government ratified the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, but poor implementation has resulted in continued child exploitation and trafficking. In particular, Iran’s estimated 200,000 street children, as well as the children of the country’s 3-million-strong migrant population (the vast majority of which are Afghan and often impoverished), are at risk for forced labor, abuse and trafficking.
Iran’s LGBTQ youth face severe legal and social discrimination (and because of the criminalization of same-sex relations, the inability to seek protection from violence), and children with disabilities face inaccessible schools and services and inadequate protections from violence and abuse.
In addition, Iran is the world’s leader in executions of juvenile offenders, despite the strict international prohibition against such executions. At least seven child offenders were put to death in Iran in 2018, with more than 90 child offenders on death row, according to Amnesty International. Clearly, there is much work to be done to protect children in Iran.
This essay is reprinted from the Center for Human Rights in Iran book, Days to Remember: International Human Rights Days and the Pursuit of Human Dignity in Iran.