Child Marriage in Afghanistan
With limited resources and an absence of income to support themselves, Afghan families may sell their children to make ends meet, resulting in a significant level of child marriage in Afghanistan. To illustrate, the 9-year-old Parwana Malik family sold her to Qorban, a 55-year-old man, for $2,200 in an arrangement of sheep, land and cash. Thinking about what her future holds as a wife to Qorban, Parwana fears her husband will beat her and force her to work in his house. Regrettably, however, Parwana’s family does not have enough money to afford necessities to keep all its members alive and healthy. In fact, before her family sold her, it sold Parwana’s 12-year-old sister.

Background of Child Marriages in Afghanistan

Child marriage in Afghanistan can cause suffering and damage in a child’s life. For example, many child brides experience domestic violence, discrimination, abuse and poor mental health. Child marriage in Afghanistan is common but illegal. The minimum age for marriage is 15 or 16 years old for women and 18 years old for men. In the past, many families opted for child marriages to pay back any personal debts, settle disputes, or create friendships with rival families to decrease their enemy count.

In 2016, the National Ministry of Women and the Ministry of Information and Culture created the National Action Plan to Eliminate Early and Child Marriage, bringing organizations from 90 different countries together to help end child marriage in Afghanistan and ensure the legal age of marriage be 18.

However, this act was short-lived. Now, with the increasing hardships of acquiring money and jobs, Afghanistan families are selling their young daughters “for large dowries from wealthy people, and the husbands are usually much older,” according to UNFPA.

Afghanistan is a country that has always relied on foreign aid, with 75% of its finances coming from grants from the United States and other countries. Unfortunately, when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the country’s economy worsened, leading to difficult living conditions for many people.

Poor Economy Causing an Increase in Child Marriages

When the United States military withdrew, the Western powers and international organizations stopped sending humanitarian aid by blocking overseas equipment and valuables to focus their time on taking the Taliban away from power.

Additionally, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) halted payments. As a result, Afghanistan workers and people are not receiving income to feed themselves and pay for other expenses, leading to families selling their children for money.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), “recent surveys have revealed that only 5% of families have enough to eat every day.” Not only are they not receiving enough money to support themselves, but there has also been an increase in food and cooking oil prices and the country has lost about 40% of its wheat crops.

As winter approaches, WFP mentions that Afghanistan families will run out of food, pushing them further to the brink of starvation. For example, to avoid selling his daughter, Parwana’s father would travel to the main cities of Afghanistan hoping to find a job, but he was always unsuccessful.

In addition, he would ask for money from other family members, while his wife would beg their neighbors for food, but they received little assistance. Having to take care of eight other family members, Parwana’s father felt obligated to sell Parwana to keep the rest alive, according to CNN.

Where Afghanistan is Receiving Help

Fortunately, WFP is helping Afghanistan’s dire situation and improving their nutrition to rebuild their strength. According to WFP, it has “provided 6.4 million people with food assistance, including more than 1.4 million people since the Taliban takeover.”

In September 2021, WFP sent 10 trucks into the country with nutritional supplements for young children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Currently, WFP has a team of people in the most remote parts of Afghanistan to deliver food to communities they might not reach in the winter months due to blockades of snow.

Not only is WFP asking for $2.6 billion in 2022 in aid for Afghanistan, but the U.N. has made an emergency appeal for $606 million to meet areas that need it the most. Although the United States and other countries are not sending any aid into the country, Afghanistan is receiving relief elsewhere, improving the lives of many and decreasing the number of child marriages in Afghanistan.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in Afghanistan
Child marriage in Afghanistan is so common that over 30% of all girls are married before the age of 18. This disturbing figure bears more than a cursory glance. Aside from causing immense emotional and physical duress for child brides, the practice also massively hinders the girls’ ability to access education.

The phenomenon of child marriage in Afghanistan is not unique to the country, nor even to South Asia. In fact, the country with the highest prevalence of child brides is Niger, with 76% of girls married by the age of 18. In South Asia, the largest absolute number of child brides is in India — where 12 million children were married before the age of 10.

These figures speak to the fact that child marriage is not a phenomenon of any one race or religion. It has developed independently around the world, often for financial benefit or social mobility. However, in all cases, the effects on young girls have been devastating.

In Afghanistan, the relationship between the occurrence of child marriage and lack of education for females is chilling. Only 14% of girls are literate and only 36 percent are receiving an education. Naturally, these figures cannot be a result of child marriage in Afghanistan alone.

Factors Leading to Child Marriage in Afghanistan

Other factors created by a highly patriarchal society must be taken into consideration. Nevertheless, marrying off girls at a young age has an undeniable influence on their education.

The clearest way that child marriage affects female education is by causing girls to drop out of school in preparation for marriage or pregnancy.

This choice reflects a larger mentality where education for females is considered less valuable than marriage — a far more lucrative venture for families that consider their daughters to be liabilities. Once the girl is married, it can be hard for her to return to school, since she now has a family that takes up most of her time.

Girls Not Brides, an organization focused on ending child marriage states that girls with no education are three times as likely to marry by 18 as those with secondary or higher education.

In addition, over 60 percent of women ages 20-24 with no education were married before 18. Clearly, education is both a catalyst for and a consequence of lowered rates of child marriage.

Educating girls at the secondary school level equips them with the ability to recognize when and whom they want to marry. It also ensures that they have skills that make them self-reliant financially and emotionally.

The mere practice of being in school also furthers the perception that girls are still too young to be married and must invest their time in learning instead of child rearing.

Child marriage in Afghanistan is a direct result of poverty, strong patriarchal values, lack of access to education and cultural practices. All of these factors could be prevented by increasing female participation in schooling, as not only would girls be immediately affected; their qualifications would also allow them to later have a voice in decision making.

Mallika Khanna

Photo: Flickr