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Iran: Girl With Mental Age of Eight Given Death Sentence After Mother Forced Her Into Prostitution From Early Age

Leyla M was reportedly sentenced to death on charges of “acts contrary to chastity” by controlling a brothel, having intercourse with blood relatives and giving birth to an illegitimate child. She is to be flogged before she is executed. She had apparently “confessed” to the charges. Earlier reports stated that there would be an appeal, and the 28 November report indicates that this process is now at an end.

Social workers have reportedly tested her mental capacities repeatedly and each time have found Leyla to have a mental age of eight. However, she has apparently never been examined by the court-appointed doctors, and was sentenced to death solely on the basis of her explicit confessions, without consideration of her background or mental health.

Leyla was forced into prostitution by her mother when she was eight years old, according to the 28 November report, and was raped repeatedly thereafter. She gave birth to her first child when she was nine, and was sentenced to 100 lashes for prostitution at around the same time. At the age of 12, her family sold her to an Afghan man to become his “temporary wife”. His mother became her new pimp, “selling her body without her consent”.

At the age of 14 she became pregnant again, and received a further 100 lashes, after which she was moved to a maternity ward to give birth to twins. After this “temporary marriage”, her family sold her again, to a 55-year-old man, married with two Children's rights, who had Leyla’s customers come to his house.

The newspaper report makes no mention of her family or the men to whom she was married. In Iranian law, in a case of “intercourse with a blood relative” both parties are considered culpable, but only Leyla M has been referred to in the reports of which Amnesty International is aware.

Amnesty International members in the UK are writing urgently to the Iranian authorities, calling for the execution to be halted immediately. Amnesty International UK’s Women's rights's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights Campaign Manager Jennifer Campbell said:

“Leyla’s story is a litany of violence and abuse. Sold into prostitution at the age of eight, she has experienced horrific sexual violence throughout her short life. Now she faces flogging and execution.

“We must stop this. Amnesty members are campaigning to save Leyla from execution, writing to the Iranian authorities to let them know that we will not stand by mutely and let this happen. We urge other people to join us and take action straight away.

“Three child offenders have been executed in Iran already this year. We must act now to stop there being a fourth.”

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Background Information Iranian law recognises two types of marriage - “permanent” and “temporary” (for any defined period from 24 hours to 99 years). A man can have up to four “permanent” wives and numerous temporary ones.

As a party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Iran has undertaken not to execute anyone for an offence committed when they were under 18 years old. The Iranian authorities are now considering legislation (the draft law on the Establishment of Children's rights’s Courts) that would prohibit the use of the death penalty for offences committed under the age of 18. Article 41 of this law requires the authorities to have child offenders examined by psychiatrists and social workers.

Iran has executed at least three child offenders in 2004. In addition to this, on 12 November 2004, a 14-year-old boy died after receiving 85 lashes for eating in public during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. According to unconfirmed reports, the metal cable used to flog him struck the back of his head, causing a brain haemorrhage.

One in three Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights suffer serious violence in their lifetime, at home, in the community or in war, just because they are Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights. Amnesty International is running a global campaign to 'Women's rights's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights'. The human rights organisation is calling on governments to repeal laws that permit and encourage violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, and on communities to challenge attitudes that allow violence to continue. For more information visit:

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