Friday, April 19, 2024

Forced and underage marriages surge in Afghanistan

Immigration News

Fidel Rahmati
Fidel Rahmati
Fidai Rahmati is the editor and content writer for Khaama Press. You may follow him at Twitter @FidelRahmati

Written By: Tabasum Nasiry

A recent report by the United States Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has highlighted a significant rise in forced and underage marriages in Afghanistan in recent months.

After 2021, 35% of Afghan girls were married before turning 18, and 17% were married before they were 15, according to this organization’s statistics.

The organization SIGAR has reported that between December 2022 and February 2023, there were 578 documented cases of forced marriages in Afghanistan, with 361 involving underage brides.

Afsana Sakhi, a medical student, had to stop her studies because of the ban on girls’ education. She explained to Khama Press News Agency that this ban made her give up her dream of becoming a doctor and think about marriage instead. Afsana had invested a lot of money in her education to help her family, but now, she feels like a “burden” due to the education restrictions on girls.

According to Afsana, her family constantly tells her that it is better to get married. They say that her dream of continuing her education will never become a reality unless money is spent. Her family repeatedly insists that she should marry a man.

Meanwhile, Taranum Saeedi, a women’s rights activist, points out that with the closure of schools, more than one million adolescent girls have been left without education, prompting families to see marriage as an alternative to schooling. Ms. Saeedi adds that child marriage has a long-standing tradition in Afghanistan and many Islamic countries, with the primary reason being to complete the nine years of a girl’s life, which is considered the legal age.

According to this women’s rights activist, factors such as lack of awareness among families, incorrect traditions, the influence of religious leaders and fatwas, poverty, and the desperation of families – even selling their daughters – contribute to girls being forced into underage and forced marriages.

Ms. Saeedi considers solutions such as raising awareness among families, especially men, that “a girl is a human being and has the right to decide her own life” and implementing and enforcing “stringent” laws as fundamental steps to reducing forced marriages of underage girls.

Meanwhile, underage and forced marriages have been a serious concern in Afghanistan in recent years, taking root due to the prevalence of harmful practices. The phenomenon has increased significantly since the rise of the Taliban administration, primarily due to the ban on girls’ education.

Previously, UNICEF had also emphasized in its report that forced marriages in South Asia, including Afghanistan, had increased due to economic hardships and the ban on education, with many families viewing their daughters as a “burden.”

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