Muslim schoolgirls (illustrative)
Muslim schoolgirls (illustrative)Israel news photo: Flash 90

Iran’s parliament has passed a controversial law allowing men to marry their adopted daughters at the age of just 13, the British paper The Guardian reports.

Iranian law already allowed girls to marry at age 13, and boys at age 15. In addition, girls were allowed to marry at younger ages with court approval.

In 2010, at least 75 children under age 10 were married in Tehran alone, and as many as 42,000 children ages 10-14 were married across the country, The Guardian reported, citing the Iranian site Tabnak.

However, until the new law was passed, adoptive parents were not allowed to marry their adopted children, and marriage to stepchildren was also forbidden.

The law may still be shot down by Iran’s Guardian Council, which has the power to reject bills for violating Islamic law (Sharia).

Human rights activists who spoke to The Guardian warned that the bill was “legalizing pedophilia.”

“It’s not part of the Iranian culture to marry your adopted child,” said Shadi Sadr of the London-based group Justice for Iran. “You should not be able to marry your adopted children, full stop.”

“With this bill, you can be a pedophile and get your bait in the pretext of adopting children,” she warned.

Shiva Dolatabadi of the Iranian Society for Protecting Children’s Rights had a similar warning. “You cannot open a way in which the role of a father or mother can be mixed with that of a spouse. Children can’t be safe in such a family,” she said.

The growing negative publicity surrounding the bill could hurt Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s reputation as a moderate.