An Iranian child, Romina Ashrafi (13 years old), had fallen in love with a man who was 16 years older than her, or so she had thought. Her family had refused to let her marry him not because she was a minor, but due to the “cultural differences and class distinction” between her and the man whom she wanted to marry. Consequently, Romina decided to run away, at the behest of the young man, from Talesh in Gilan Province to elope with him.
The police forces managed to arrest them and Romina was handed over to her family.
Romina was scared to return home, and emphasized the fact that she would never be safe there; she’d warned both the security and judicial officials not to hand her over back to her father, but the police insisted on doing the opposite.
What Romina believed was true; she was killed horribly a few days after she returned home, with father cold-bloodedly beheading her in her sleep, with the use of a farming sickle.
This murder shocked the Iranian community and immediately turned into a news piece discussed widely by the press and on social media websites. The murders of women in Iran began to be spoken about again, since they are among the most common murders committed in Iran. More than 400 honor killing crimes are recorded annually, equivalent to 20 percent of the murders committed in the country.
The paradox that had provoked the public’s opinion and sparked discussion among legal professionals, was the fact that Romina’s father, Reda Fathallah Ashrafi, confessed to the murder of his daughter after being arrested by the security forces. Still however, according to Iranian law and Article 220 of the Penal Code, he was to only be sentenced to imprisonment or forced to pay a fine to himself, since he remains her “blood heir”, according to the Iran International website.
Legal Loopholes That Put Young Girls at Risk
This issue has sparked widespread controversy in Iran. Human rights activists and people on social media websites are holding the weak laws of protecting children and the legal loopholes for providing security for women and girls in Iran responsible; this is especially critical after Romina had warned, before her death, that she would be at risk if she returned home.
So, couldn’t the police not return the child to her father’s house?
In simple terms, no.
This is because parents, especially fathers, are the main decision-makers when it comes to their children, according to Iranian Law. This is noting that the draft law on protecting and guaranteeing women’s security, which provides for the punishment of anyone who commits violence against women even in the cases where it was her father, was discussed in Parliament for years but has not been approved yet; this is all the while Article 630 of the Iranian Penal Code remains valid, which entitles men to kill their wives if they were proven to have committed “adultery”, or to murder the aggressor involved if it turns out that the wives were assaulted.
Neither the law nor the social system seem to be paying attention to the fact that the female victim is a mere child. Accordingly, no attention is being paid to the age difference between Romina and her boyfriend either, nor to her decision of running away with him. If we accept that it was her own decision and that she had not been compelled to do so, we arrive at the love she sought and her unconscious desire to find safety, a feeling she had apparently been missing in her own household where her father did not hesitate to kill her in the most violent manner, alongside a mother who was not even mentioned by the media. Of Course, she does not hold enough power and freedom in a society that grants the man the power to make decisions and the freedom of action. This is all happening in the shadow of an unfair law in a country where women are brutally murdered everyday without any mercy.
Age of Marriage: 13 Years or Less If a Judge Approves!
In Iran, judges have the authority to release the perpetrators of the murders of women with impunity according to the UN Committee on the ‘Rights of the Child’. It should be noted that the age of marriage for girls begins at the age of 13, and that sexual relations with young girls under the age of nine are not covered or punished by the law in Iran.
In the same context, Iranian women face discrimination in matters of personal status regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody. Iranian women still need marriage approval from their guardians regardless of their age. They also cannot pass their nationality over to their foreign husbands or to their children. Besides, married women cannot obtain a passport, or travel abroad without the written consent of their husbands, according to a “Human Rights Watch” report.
So, Romina is one of the hundreds of Iranian girls who were killed due to unjust laws governed through the patriarchal mentality and the power of religion.
Romina’s story is one of the many miserable stories which have ultimately ended with the death of women because they fell in love, for example, or disobeyed the males of their families like their fathers, brothers, or husbands… Their stories are folded over and packed as if nothing had happened, and the sun shines again on a new day with a new tragedy of another sad woman.