Child Marriage in Afghanistan
If the government of Afghanistan does not stop the practice of child marriage, most mothers will lose their children besides their own lives in Afghanistan as a result of under age marriage. Indeed, getting married under the age of eighteen or sixteen is not legal according to any law around world because it is internationally accepted that at least the couples should be sixteen. Although according to the Afghan Civil Law the minimum age of marriage for male is 18 and female 16, according to reports of Medica Mondiale and UNICEF, 57 per cent of Afghan females are married under the age sixteen without their consent because of their parent’s financial problems. Moreover, Getting married under 16 sixteen will result several serious health problems for mothers that cause them not to develop properly, neither physically nor psychologically (Earily Marriage in Afghanistan). For instance, a woman living in Qala-e-Bakhtiar of Kabul with her six children has said to Medica Mondial that she was only 15 when she was married against her will. She hates the noise of her children because of having psychological problems. (W.Mukhatari , pg 6). The marriage of children by force is against human rights. Children know nothing about their sexual relationship with their life partners, because they are still child and their parents should take care of them. Therefore, to save the Afghan female children from being exchanged for an amount of money to solve a family s financial problems, Afghanistan government should educate and campaign about consequences of child marriage, increase employment opportunities for parents, and enforce the law by making the marriage registration legal.
In spite of understanding the childhood condition of children, most of the Afghan parents marry their daughters because financial problems they are facing. Poverty is a challenge, which changes the lives of children besides the culture of early child marriage. According to the report by Millennium Development Goals for Afghanistan, the average income of per member of family is 200$ a year and less than one dollar a day. So, they are considered below the poverty line (Earily Marriage in Afghanistan). Thus, to get out of the financial crises the marriage of their daughters before their legal ages such 16 or 18 would be considered for some families the only option for the parents to protect their family honor, pay their debts and take a little amount of money in exchange for their.
First of all, one of the reasons of child marriage is to receive an exorbitant amount of money, which is called Toyana (wedding expenses) in Dari. The payment that parents receive from the groom family is not less than 300,000 Afs. and is not meant to be the wedding expenses, but the price of their child daughter. In a report about the child marriages in Afghanistan by the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation (WCLRF) shows that most of the interviewees have said that the only reason they were married in their childhoods was to receive Toyana from the groom’s family (Earily Marriage in Afghanistan).
Secondly, the other factor that makes the poor families marry their daughters under the age sixteen, often times in rural areas, is to exchange women for women which is called Badal. The practice of this type of marriage is very common among the afghan people. This kind of marriage saves a huge expense of both sides because of exchanging their child daughters from a family to another family to satisfy both sides. The wedding party of such kind of marriage is often celebrated at one time to avoid spending an large amount of money. Indeed, it is the little young female who is devoted for her brother and is victimized for a little amount of money.
Third, debt is another function that the females are exchanged for under the age sixteen in Afghanistan. When a family is unable to pay its debt within limited time that agreed, then the family is supposed to pay a huge amount that satisfy the lender, such as building, farming land, in some cases even a daughter otherwise the family is put in jail. So, the only remaining option for the family to protect its ancestors property would be to sacrifice a daughter as a form of repayment for debt. It does not matter whether the child daughter is 9 or 18 years. As an explicit example, Shahs Family had to marry their 9 year old daughter Khalida two years ago. Shah had received almost 2000$ from a drug trader to grow opium in his land, but the government crop-eradication team destroyed his poppy field and put the Shah family in debt. So, he had to give his 9 years daughter to drug trader because nothing was left in his life. (Clifford)
Forth, the traditional custom of Afghan people is victimizing the child females in most of the rural areas. One of the reasons of child marriage in Afghanistan is Baad, which is a traditional way of having the child females to marry one of males from the family of enemy and forcing her to accept him as her husband in compensation for the crime that her father or brother has committed against the enemy family, and to stop the enmity between two families. For instance, Aisha, an Afghan female whose nose and ears were cut by her Al-Qaeda husband in Oruzgan province, was just 8 years old when she was given as a Baad to her husband family 10 years ago (Shaming her in-laws costs ). Because her father had killed a member of her husband family, so he had to give his daughter to compensate his crime and to avoid being imprisoned or being killed by his enemy. Unfortunately, when the child female goes to her husband house in Baad marriage she is not going to her in-laws house as a bride but as a slave.
Consequently, the child marriage has several negative impacts on the health of both, mothers and babies. The female children wh
o are married under the age of 16 0r 18 would not be prepared for pregnancies and child birth. A statistic of child marriage by Women and Children Legal Research Foundation (WCLRF) shows that 28.7% mothers have physiological and psychological problems, 34.1% have physically weak children, 8.9% have handicapped and disabled children, 1.6% have children with different types of diseases and disorders, and 40.4% of these women have suffered from gynecological disease (Earily Marriage in Afghanistan).In addition, the child marriage would result to take the life of the mothers along with losing the babies. Most of the mothers who are dying at the age of 18-19 are because of their early pregnancies, and the chance of survival for the babies would be forty per cent comparing to the mothers who married in their proper ages (Sadik).
Furthermore, child marriage would result the child brides to be abused by their in-laws family. Most of the child females face various violations after they get married, such as no right to choose, no right to go somewhere without the permission of her husband . When the violation increase the child bride is going to be isolated from the families and relatives. Thus, the only options that remains for the child bride is to suicide or escape from home. The interview of female prisoners by the Medica Mendials legal staff shows that 60% of prisoners were the escapees from husbands houses who were married under the age sixteen. Most of the prisoners have said that they were being abused or even being threaten to dead by their in-laws families (W.Mukhatari , pg 9) .
To come out of the child marriage problem and save little young girls in Afghanistan, education and awareness of public are the main keys to prevent from child marriage. The government should provide community education programs to inform the public about negative consequences of child marriage. Such programs can be implemented easily by Ministry of Women Affairs, which can easily teach the women of an area without any problem, or in other way, the government should pay the clergymen of mosques to advice the parents on their tribunes. These are the only sources that families can trust on. Moreover, the government should implement public awareness campaigns by international organizations and by holding Shoras and Jirgas with the elders of rural areas to talk about the negative impacts of child marriage (Earily Marriage in Afghanistan).
The government of Afghanistan should enforce the law to prevent child marriages. For instance, keeping the marriage registration regularly by the government agencies and receiving the evidence and acquiescence of both sides could be a possible way to reduce the child marriage. For example, in parts of Indonesia, registration of marriage is dependent on evidence that the marriage is not forced on couples (Sadik). The parents who marry their daughters in their childhood under the age 16 should punished and persecuted seriously by the government as governments of Norway and Kyrgyzstan did. They both have set the minimum age of the girls 17 and the punishment of those who marry the females earlier than the age 17 would be jailed for 2 to 6 years.
Weak Economy is another factor, which causes most child marriages in Afghanistan. The government should try to develop the economic situation in rural areas where women have cannot earn money for themselves. For example, the project of Micro finance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan, which is donated by the World Bank and is implemented by the Rural Rehabilitation and Development Ministry, should be accessible for all women the Afghanistan. In fact, lending a little amount of money to women can be the start of their business to provide their own necessities. For example Saima Mohammad who was about to be divorced by her husband because of having only a daughter and no son. Her husband had borrowed 3,000$, and he was not able to pay it back. So, Saima went to Pakistani micro finance organization called Kashf Foundation, took out only 65$ as loan and bought her 65$ bead and clothes to make embroidery from them and sell them to market in Lahor. She has everything now, and even her husband is working with her (Knistaff).
The government should be serious in taking important steps against child marriages in Afghanistan, because child marriage is dangerous for the health of both, mothers and their babies. People should be informed; the parents who force their child daughters to marry and those who marry females under the age sixteen should be punished. Most importantly, the economic situation of people should be developed to prevent them to not marry their children under the age sixteen in exchange for an amount of money. So, the Afghan government needs to increase peoples’ awareness about the outcome of early marriage, make employment opportunities and persecute those who marry their children before the age sixteen.
Written by: Zabiullah Zabi
Clifford, Drug Fuels Forced Marriages in Afghanistan , Cassandra Clifford, 8 May, 2008, Web, 12 October, 2010
Early Marriage in Afghanistan, Women and Children Legal Research Foundation (WCLRF), 2008, 23 October, 2010, 7-21 print
Knistaff, Nick, Half the Sky , Knistaff, Chapter 11, Microcredit , pg 284-310, Sep, 2010
Sadik, Early Marriage Child Spouses , Dr. Nafis Sadik, UNFPA, March 2007, 18 October, 2010, pg 11-15 print
Shaming her-laws costs 19 years old her nose, ears, UNIFEM Organization, unifem.org, 2010, 18 October, 2010
W.Mukhtari, S. Bahgam, Study on Child Marriage in Afghanistan , W.Mukhtari, Media
Mandial, May 2004, 18 October, 2010, 2-18 print
Image Source: http://www.demotix.com/news/17489/child-trafficking