Women at Evin: Victims of Marriage at a Young Age
Saturday 5 January 2008
By: Maryam Hosseinkhah
Translated by: Sussan Tahmasebi
The TV host speaks of homes which should be filled with happiness and warmth, while I think of my own home from my prison cell. I think of the small home we have built, each brick standing on the principles of equality. I think of the walls, half of which are the color of earth and the other the color of the sky. And I think of my husband, which signed our marriage certificate with a commitment to equality, so that our family is not held together with my sacrifice, rather with our mutual happiness and satisfaction. But it seems that the destiny of some women is doomed from the start.
As a result of some of these laws, some women may be condemned for years to pace up and down the hallways of court houses, so that perhaps they could succeed in divorcing the husband who has their life unbearable, or to acquire the custody of their children. Perhaps on occasion, because of the laws which allow for the marriage of 13 year old girls, women become trapped by undesirable and forced marriages, and as a result resort to crimes such as stealing or prostitution. On occasion poverty and lack of knowledge which befall women more often than men, force them into financial difficulties which leads eventually to prison.
But when they arrested me, they didn’t understand where they were sending me. They didn’t understand that my presence in the midst of these women, will forever deprive me of my peace of mind. They didn’t understand that by bearing witness to the realities of these women’s lives—victims of the law, some of whom I believe deserve a different fate—I would never again be able to dismiss my sense of responsibility when confronted by this heavy burden. They didn’t understand that by seeing these women in Evin, I will be armed with a multitude of examples justifying each of my demands. Here there are endless examples of women who have been forced to sacrifice their youth, their lives, even their families and children. They didn’t understand that in this place I would see women whose fathers had forced them to marry at the age of 14 and 15—women who in the end accepted their lot and came to build a life with a man they did not choose, raised children and even grew to love their husbands, only to eventually witness his infidelity.
So what has resulted from the advantage provided men under the laws? In some cases, women who were forcibly married off at age 14, never having had the opportunity to learn a new skill or to acquire education or to be trained for employment, were forced into prostitution or robbery or addiction or a thousand other crimes. As a result of anger and their own powerlessness some of these women have resorted to murdering their husbands and are now living under fear of imminent execution themselves.
Evin is full of women who have been married off as children and have been forced to turn to a thousand different types of crimes. I wish our laws did not allow for Mina and Zahra and Setareh and Leila to be married off in their teenage years and had allowed them more time to become empowered so that at the difficult impasses in their lives they would not have turned to crime as a means to solve their problems. Perhaps if things were different, 25 year old Mina who is the mother of 2 children aged 11 and 5 years old, would not have given birth to her third child in prison. Or perhaps if the law did not allow teenage girls to be married, Raheleh would not be saying that she was 14 when she was forcibly married and her husband could not have forced her to use drugs along with him. Or Mahsa would not have allowed her husband to force her into a life of crime.
Now I am in the midst of a group of women, whose nightmares will never leave me.