TEHRAN, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad said the best age for girls to get married was
between 16 and 18, Iranian newspapers reported on Sunday.
Analysts say such announcements could be part of the
government's efforts to gain support among young voters.
Iran's parliament in 2004 raised the legally acceptable age
of marriage for girls to 15 from nine.
"The best age for marriage is between 16 to 18 for girls and
19 to 21 for boys," the Mardomsalari newspaper quoted
Ahmadinejad as saying.
Ahmadinejad's popularity has been harmed since the disputed
2009 presidential vote, which the opposition says was rigged to
secure his re-election. The authorities deny this. The vote and
its aftermath created a rift within the ruling hardline elite.
"We have a parliamentary election in 2012 and hardliners
want to win young people's votes in order to win the assembly
vote," said an Iranian political analyst who asked not to be
Iranians struggle to cope with international sanctions and
deepening economic uncertainty. The official inflation rate is
about 10 percent and unemployment about 15 percent.
Iran has been hit by foreign sanctions over its disputed
nuclear work, which the West fears is a cover to build bombs.
Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful.
The authorities have been encouraging marriage as a way to
fight what they call the "spread of immorality among youth".
Some hardline clerics and lawmakers have warned over
increasing rates of divorce.
"Divorces ... are increasing. High prices have caused
problems for ordinary Iranians," said prominent hardline cleric
grand ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi on Friday.
Female activists criticise laws relating to women, including
those that restrict women's divorce and custody rights and
forbid them from working or leaving the country without their
A woman's testimony and life, in blood money terms, are
worth half that of a man's in court. A woman cannot become
Activists say women's demands cannot be put on the back
burner in a country where two-thirds of the population is under
30 and more than 60 percent of university graduates are women.
Iranian women have made inroads into politics and business
in recent years. Shirin Ebadi, a human rights activist, was
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work on women's
and children's rights in the Islamic Republic.
(Editing by Janet Lawrence)
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