Although little data is available on child marriage in Iran, UNICEF estimates that approximately 17% of girls there are married before the age of 18.The numbers may be even higher as many families in Iran do not register births or underage marriages.According to Iran’s Association of Children’s Rights, the number of girls married in Iran under the age of 15 went from 33,383 in 2006 to 43,459 in 2009, a 30% increase in three years.

“I thought, maybe I should change something.” By “something,” Amin was referring not to her identity or lifestyle, but to her gender.

“If I was that young girl living in Iran today, I would have considered having a sex change operation,” even though she has never identified with being male.

Most people who experience same-sex attraction would not immediately think to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

But in Iran, the options between a homosexual existence and a transsexual existence offer little real choice.

According to the Islamic Republic civil code, the legal age of marriage in Iran is 13 for girls and 15 for boys.

However, the same Act allows girls below 13 and boys below 15 to married with the consent of their father or the permission of a court judge.

By Rochelle Terman TEHRAN, Iran—When Shadi Amin was growing up in pre-revolutionary Iran, she began experiencing sexual feelings toward other girls.

“I thought there was something wrong with me,” she says.

Homosexuality, under certain circumstances, is punishable by death.

Transsexuality, on the other hand, is considered a legitimate health problem by the dominant legal, religious, and medical communities, for which the sanctioned cure is hormonal treatment and sex reassignment surgery.

So encouraging is the Iranian government of such surgery that it currently subsidizes procedures for qualified applicants.