Iran criminalizes child abuse after a father beheads 14-year-old daughter

Iran criminalized physical and emotional child abuse and abandonment after the nation reeled from the gruesome murder of a 14-year-old girl who was decapitated by her father in a northern village. 

The New York Times reported that Romina Ashrafi’s father, Reza Ashrafi, consulted a lawyer before killing her. He was told he would get three to 10 years at most for killing his daughter. 

At the time of the killing, fathers were exempt from capital punishment for so-called honor killings, and in Romina's case, her father thought she was dishonoring the family by planning to run off with her 29-year-old boyfriend.

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A bill banning honor killings and a separate bill banning abuse and abandonment had been debated by the nation’s Parliament for the past decade and finally passed Sunday.  

“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, told the Times. 

Under the new law, the government is required to report cases of child abuse and to place children under the protection of social services. In the case of Romina, she had told officials her life was at risk, but was allowed to remain in her father’s house. 

“Romina died, but thousands of children are at the brink of life and death every day," Reza Shafahkhah, a lawyer and children’s rights activist, told reporters, according to the Times. "This case clearly revealed the lack of laws protecting children."