An Iranian Public Health official says girls as young as 12 are now running away from home. Habibollah Massoudi Farid of Public Health told the Sharvand daily on Thursday March 12 that currently there are 450 teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 13 in Public Health Houses. Public Health Houses offer shelter to women who are in harm’s way and have no support from family or other social organizations.

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Massoudi Farid said “violence and drug abuse by parents” are often the reasons why these women run away from home. The public health official said his department has no statistics regarding the number of young women running away from home, adding that a request for those statistics from morality police has so far gone unanswered.

Previous reports from public health indicate that in past years, there were at least 3,000 women who ran away from home annually, but that only includes those who sought help through public shelters, which means the true number must be higher.

Massoudi Farid also said that underage prostitutes are now as young as 15, with Tehran, Isfahan and Khorasan Razavi having the highest rates of prostitution.