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Iran criminalises child abuse after outrage over murder of girl by father

Iran criminalises child abuse after outrage over murder of girl by father
June 09
13:04 2020

Iran has passed a new law criminalising abuse of children — physically or emotionally.

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According to New York Times, the new legislation, referred to as “Romina’s law”, was passed on Sunday.

It comes amid nationwide outrage over the killing of Romina Ashrafi, a 14-year-old girl, by Reza Ashrafi, her father, in May.

The teenager had reportedly been beheaded by her father with a farming sickle for running off with her boyfriend.

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The bill — which is the country’s first legal attempt to protect children and juveniles — was introduced to the parliament in 2009 but its implementation had been stalled since then.

A similar bill that would criminalise the emotional, sexual and physical abuse of women had also witnessed delay in passage eight years after it was introduced.

But President Hassan Rouhani had called on the parliament to facilitate swift passage of both bills in the wake of Romina’s murder.

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It remained to be seen if the conservative-dominated body, elected in February, would also act on the legislation protecting women.

Many had argued that Romina may not have died had the law been passed weeks before her demise.

“Romina died, but thousands of children are at the brink of life and death every day. This case clearly revealed the lack of laws protecting children,” Reza Shafahkhah, a lawyer and children’s rights activist, had told IRNA, the country’s news agency, on Monday.

Romina’s father faces a maximum jail sentence of 10 years under Iran’s Islamic penal code due to the fact that fathers are considered guardians and, unlike mothers, are free from capital punishment for murdering their children.

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The development is considered a watershed in the country’s efforts to put in place legal frameworks that guarantee safety of children from abuses.

“It’s the first time in Iran’s legal framework that harming a child is defined as a crime,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the center for human rights in Iran, an independent organization based in New York.

Iranian legal experts and human rights activist, however, said more still need to be done, citing the shortcomings of the new law.

According to Ghaemi, the new law did not address several important issues, including child marriage, a lack of severe punishment for fathers who kill or harm their children and the execution of juvenile offenders.

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