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After case of 14-year-old girl beheaded by father, bill against child abuse passed by Iran

/ 08:05 PM June 10, 2020

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during the inauguration of the new parliament in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Image: AP/Vahid Salemi

Iran has finally approved a bill against child abuse following public outrage over the beheading of a 14-year-old girl in an act of “honor killing” committed by her own father.

Under the bill, which was passed last Sunday, June 7, it is a crime to physically and emotionally abuse children, as well as abandon them, as per New York Times on June 8. Preventing children from getting an education and forcing them to work is also illegal under the bill, which sets monetary and jail punishments for the said offenses.

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Before being passed, the bill has been pending for around 11 years because the Iranian Guardian Council kept rejecting its passage. The Council has since been blamed by the public for the death of 14-year-old Romina Ashrafi, saying the bill could have prevented the girl’s death.

The Council’s spokesperson Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei on Sunday said they have determined that the bill to protect children does not go against Islam’s Shariah Law and Iran’s Constitution.

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Ashrafi was beheaded while she was asleep in their family home last month by her own father, Reza, because the teenager allegedly dishonored their family by running away with her boyfriend.

Reza, who is now under police custody, allegedly consulted his lawyer first before killing his daughter, according to a Times report on June 7. The lawyer assured Reza that he will not receive capital punishment but will be sentenced to three to 10 years in jail, at most.

Under Iran’s Islamic penal code, fathers are exempt from capital punishment for killing their children because they are considered “guardians,” unlike mothers.

A research center affiliated with Iran’s armed forces last year reported that nearly 30% of all murder cases in Iran were honor killings of women and girls, the report stated. The exact number, however, is unknown since Iran does not publicly release crime statistics.

“Romina died, but thousands of children are at the brink of life and death every day,” lawyer and children’s rights activist Reza Shafahkhah was quoted as saying. “This case clearly revealed the lack of laws protecting children.”

“It’s the first time in Iran’s legal framework that harming a child is defined as a crime,” Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, meanwhile told the Times.

Ashrafi was caught by police five days after running away from her home. She was then turned over to her father by authorities. Under the bill, this will no longer be allowed as judiciary and security officials are now required to report cases of child abuse and hand over children to social services first while investigations are ongoing.

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The bill’s draft, however, has yet to be made available online. The media has so far been relying on statements from officials to get information on its content, according to the report.

While the bill shows progress, several Iranian rights experts argue that the bill still has several shortcomings. Ghaemi, for one, noted that the bill did not address issues such as child marriage.

The rights expert added that the bill also lacks severe punishment for fathers who kill or harm their children, as well as cases of juvenile executions, which is done in Iran more than any other country. Ian Biong/JB

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TAGS: child abuse, child marriage, honor killings, Iran, Middle East, Murder
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