In Iran, girls stop being girls at the age of nine when they undergo this ceremony. From then on, they cease to be children.
However, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, this ceremony is enforced by the Ministry of Education. Schoolmasters are required to perform the ceremony for girls once they attain the age of nine years and boys once they are 15 years old.
This ceremony is a celebration of puberty, officially marking the cross from childhood to adulthood for the children.
The ceremony is more serious for girls because it clearly states the role a woman is expected to play in the society.
Iran’s Shia brand of Islam adjudges female puberty to be the age of nine, an age where many girls around the world are still considered children. For the boys, they are adjudged to be old enough by the age of 15.
It is funny how a nine year old child is seen as a woman while a 13 year old boy is still a child. From when she is declared a ‘Mokallaf’, meaning that she is of responsible age, she is held accountable and must perform religious obligations.
Again, how a nine year old child can be declared responsible is beyond logical human reasoning. At age nine, a girl child ought to divide her time between the classroom and the playground; she has no business being responsible or viewed as an adult.
For the ceremony, she is dressed in white clothes that completely cover her hair and body, and after that event, she must not appear in public without a hijab (head/neck scarf) and she is required to say her daily prayers and fast during the month of Ramadan.
The Jashn-e taklif ceremony is one of the results of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and not some ancient, archaic custom that started eons ago.
Although it is not a wholesome practice, as it hoists a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of young girls who should still be enjoying their childhood, the inclusion of gifts, music and praise infuse a celebratory tone on the ceremony that belies the real burden and significance of the rites.
Also, it is an opportunity for well-to-do families in Iran to flaunt their status by using expensive cakes, chocolates and outfits.
The Jashn-e taklif of boys is yet to gain religious and cultural relevance as the celebration of the girls after all these years. Perhaps the popularity of the ceremony for female children is made because of the ‘commercial’ value associated with marriage.