Child brides, an illegal act in the West, are very common in countries like Afghanistan, India, Yemen, Pakistan, Malawi, South Sudan, Kurdistan and many more.
In Afghanistan 57% of girls are married or promised to men twice their age. According to UNICEF more girls are forced into marriage than boys. The main cause of this is the cultural, political and economic opinions of the child’s family.
If the family comes from an educated background, rich and modern then it is less likely for them to get their children married at a young age, whereas the less educated, poor and lower class are more likely to get their daughters married for either in exchange for money to cover debts or to take away the burden of providing for them.
Becoming a child bride takes away freedom and education from young girls; this prevents the girls from developing skills to independently look after themselves. It is also physically very dangerous for the health of the child, as they are not developed enough or ready to give birth at a young age as it could result in emotional, mental and physical trauma to both the girl and her newborn child.
In cities like Herat, Kabul, Kapisa Province and Mazar-i-Sharif, shelter is provided to Afghan women forced into marriages. The help comes from groups such as ‘Voice of Women Organisation’ and ‘Women for Afghan Women’ including other groups that have emerged since, the fall of the Taliban.
The case of 6-year-old Naghma
There have been countless reports on young Afghan brides. The most recent one was of a six year old girl married to cover her father’s debts. Naghma’s father had no other way to pay back his debts but to sell his daughter.
Naghma’s family fled Helmand Province during the War in Afghanistan. Taj Mohammad, Naghmas father, took nine of his children and wife to stay at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul, in pursue of a better life. They faced many difficulties. The family suffered in the winter, which lead to the death of Naghmas three-year-old brother who froze to death and her mother fell ill.
Taj Mohammad borrowed $2,500 in order to pay for his wife’s medical bills and other family costs. He could not repay the debt, so he was left with no choice but to Marry off Naghma to the lenders 19-year-old son.
“It was a difficult decision. Everyone gives away their child but to give Naghma away like that was just so hard.” Said Taj Mohammad (CNN).
Human rights groups then found out about Naghma’s story and were outraged so they contacted a U.S lawyer, Kimberley Motley, a former beauty queen who had been working in Afghanistan for five years.
Kimberley Motley contacted people who could help, and arranged a ‘Jirga’, which is a gathering, attended by Afghan elders. Kimberley was successful at saving Naghma as a decision was made to get her out of the marriage.
Taj Mohammad was very sad to come to a decision of getting his child married. According to CNN he said, “When I couldn’t pay my debt I felt like I’d been thrown into the fire and then someone rescued me.”
Naghma is now 7 and at school. Kimberly said, “I’m certainly very happy that Naghma did not have to be married off at the age of 6, so I’m pleased with that, But I’d like to make sure she gets an education and becomes successful.” (CNN)