12 million underage girls are married every year worldwide, according to Unicef. Although marriage before the age of 18 is a human rights violation and most countries have laws prohibiting it, the custom is still excessively widespread in some regions.
Iranian photojournalist Masha Arhabi Fard has been documenting child marriages in the rural bangs of her country for several years. In Iran, young girls are of marriageable age as soon as they reach 13 years old and boys can marry a woman as early as 15 years old.
Girls married before the age of majority are not physically or mentally ready for the role of mother and wife. They are at greater risk of complications from pregnancy, domestic violence, and diseases such as HIV. Limited access to education and work, greatly reduces their chances of improving their lives and those of their families.
Masha Ahrabi Fard dedicates a large part of her career to changing these customs, which are still deeply rooted in her country : “The negative effects of child marriage are not limited to women and their children. It affects the institution of the family and the society. In my opinion, early marriage reduces the quality of life for both men and women and diminishes the role of women in society. Child marriage places entire families in a cycle of perpetual poverty. Early marriage harms women’s careers and education until it leads to reduced economic growth and development for society as a whole.
Two things are currently happening in Iran: one is child marriage and the other is marriage of those over 30. Child marriages occur because of some kind of limitation. Factors such as poverty, traditional and social norms and illiteracy are at the root of this phenomenon. These young girls are somehow victims of it. This does not happen in modern cities, but in the villages on the borders of our country, where women do not have enough power to find a way to free them from this straitjacket.
I believe that marriage is a social contract, a guarantee of survival for the human race; peace and health in society are the result of a healthy marriage, but child marriage can lead to many sores and disorders at the individual and social levels. In my opinion, child marriage especially for girls is a violation of human rights. These practices are denounced by most international entities. »
I hope that we will stop seeing this kind of thing, not only in Iran, but all over the world. May this world become a place where all women have a chance to flourish, where men and women have equal opportunities in Iran and elsewhere. I am doing my best to help make this a reality.”