A 9-year-old girl was sold to a pedophile 46 years her senior as a “child wife” in Afghanistan according to a CNN report published on November 2. The girl was offered by her own family to be able to buy basic foodstuffs, while the Asian country collapses in a tough humanitarian crisis.
His parents point out that they had no other alternative. For four years, the family lived in a camp for displaced persons in the province of Badghis (Northwest Afghanistan), surviving thanks to aid and domestic work.
This is one of the many Afghan girls sold for marriage as the economic catastrophe deepens, international aid runs out and the country’s economy collapses. His father, Abdul Malik, already sold his 12-year-old sister several months ago.
Hunger has driven dozens of families to make heartbreaking decisions, especially as brutal winter approaches. The parents gave CNN full access and permission to talk to the children and show their faces, because they say that they alone cannot change the practice.
“We are eight relatives. I have to sell to keep other family members alive, ”said the father, who said he was devastated by guilt, shame and worry.
The money will only support the family for a few months. The girl hoped to change her parents’ ideas: she had a dream of becoming a teacher and did not want to give up her education. But their pleas were futile, CNN follows.
“It is (an outlook) absolutely catastrophic,” said Heather Barr, Associate Director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch. “We do not have months or weeks to stop this emergency (…) we are already in the emergency.”
Uncertainty combined with increasing poverty has led many girls to be sold to the “marriage market”, mainly because the Taliban do not allow them access to education. “As long as a girl is in school, her family is committed to her future. As soon as a girl leaves education, suddenly it becomes much more likely that she will be married “, qualified the expert.
Once a girl is sold, her chances of pursuing an education or pursuing an independent path are slim to none. Instead, they face a much darker future.
It is an endless ordeal for families: the decision to sell their daughter, the wait until they leave, often for years until the daughters are 10 or 12 years old, and then the separation.
According to CNN, on October 24, Qorban, The buyer came to her home and handed over 200,000 Afghans (about US $ 2,200) in the form of sheep, land and cash to the little girl’s father, who wept and begged: “This is your wife. Please take care of her, now you are responsible for her, please don’t hit her ”.
The man nodded, took her by the arm, and led her toward the door. “They dragged her to the waiting car, which slowly drove away,” reported the news network.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, without access to contraception or reproductive health services, nearly 10% of Afghan girls between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year.
Many are too young to consent to sex and they face complications in childbirth due to their underdeveloped bodies: pregnancy-related mortality rates for girls ages 15 to 19 are more than double those for women ages 20 to 24, according to this body.
According to a 2018 UNICEF report, 42% of Afghan families have a daughter who marries before the age of 18. Mainly for economic reasons, because marriage is often seen as a means of ensuring the survival of a family.
However, girls who marry early are also at serious risk, from a complicated delivery to domestic or family violence.
Last August, after the return of the Taliban, the American photojournalist Stephanie sinclair shared an image taken in 2005 in which a minor – at that time 11 years old – appears with a pedophile three decades older than her with whom she was forced to marry in Afghanistan.
Although it was taken 16 years ago, Sinclair said, its content is more relevant than ever: “20 years after the US invasion of Afghanistan that has ousted the Taliban from power, the world is witnessing a dramatic setback in recent history. of the rights of women and girls, ”she wrote on her Instagram profile.
Sinclair has been photographing child marriage for 13 years. Too Young Too Wed, the non-profit association, was founded by her in 2012 to advocate for the end of this practice.
“My first encounter with child marriage was in Afghanistan in 2003. I was horrified by the story of girls who set themselves on fire. After doing some research, I discovered that one of the reasons they made this drastic decision was that they had been forced to marry as children, “she told the magazine.
Save the Children denounced, through a study carried out by the International Day of the Girl Child, that Each year more than 22,000 girls (approximately 60 daily) die from the pregnancies and childbirths derived from child marriage.
In addition, it calls for addressing the immediate and current risks of gender-based violence. To do this, it places girls’ rights and gender equality at the center of humanitarian responses.
According to the report, in West and Central Africa, which has the highest rate of child marriage in the world, there are almost half (9,600) of all estimated deaths related to child marriage, 26 deaths a day.
Specifically, the regional adolescent maternal mortality rate is four times higher than anywhere else in the world.
The United Nations (UN) strongly condemned the practice of child marriage after a teenage girl lost her life during a childbirth at a church shrine in Zimbabwe.
14-year-old Memory Machaya died after pregnancy complications in the sanctuary of an apostolic church in rural Marange. An event that provoked the rejection and outrage of rights activists in Zimbabwe, reported the German channel DW.
The United Nations assured that the trend of cases of violence perpetrated against women and girls in Zimbabwe, “including the marriages of minors, cannot continue with impunity.”
Several regions of India reopened classrooms on Monday after 19 months of inactivity due to the pandemic in a country with limited internet access, a situation that forced many low-income children to abandon their studies to work or get married.
This is the case of Sorina, a 17-year-old girl from the western state of Odisha, who during the pandemic had to abandon her studies because she did not have an electronic device to go online and her parents decided that her best destination was to get married.
Despite not being of legal age to marry, her family found a man 11 years older who was willing to marry. In addition, his parents wanted to take advantage of the restrictions of the pandemic to celebrate a wedding at low cost.
Four women’s rights activists were killed in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, a Taliban government spokesman reported last Saturday. To date, two suspects have been arrested after the bodies were found in a home, Interior Ministry spokesman Qari Sayed Khosti said.
“The detainees admitted in the initial questioning that they invited the women to the house. New investigations are being carried out and the case was referred to the court, ”said the official.
Khosti has not identified the victims, but the British daily The Guardian said that among the deceased is 29-year-old economics professor Frozan Safi, according to her sister Rita.
According to BBC Persian, the four women were friends and comrades who were waiting to travel to the Mazar-i-Sharif airport to leave the country. A group of human rights told AFP that the activists received a call and believed it was an invitation to join an evacuation flight. They were picked up by a vehicle, to later be found murdered.