Child marriages show increasing trend in Ghor

FEROZKOH (Pajhwok): “I want to go to my mother and father and play with the kids outside.”
It was the wish of an eight -year-old girl whose parent entered her into an arranged marriage with a 15-year-old boy last year.
Salima, who lives in Madrasa village of Ferozkoh, the provincial capital of western Ghor province, complained about life without her parents.
Salima’s father, 35, gave her in marriage in return for marrying another girl from her in-laws’ house as his second wife.
Knowing little about real life, Salima told Pajhwok Afghan News it bothered her to be away from her parents.
 “I always help my mother-in-law with the chores at home. It has been long since I haven’t seen my parents,” she said, choking back the tears that prevented her from speaking.
Abdul Rahim, Salima’s neighbor, said her husband did not allow her to visit her parents because her father did not give permission to his second wife to visit her family.
“Her mother-in-law does not allow Salima to play with other children. Most of the times she works at home. She also gets bothered by her husband’s brothers, their wives and other members of the family,” he added.
The neighbour said Salima’s husband was a labourer who stayed outside home from dawn to dusk and had no time for his wife. Abdul Rahim said child marriages were widespread in his village of about 100 families.
The Afghan civil law bans giving girls less than 16 years of age into marriages.
Another woman, Khadija, 21, who was just 10 years old when her father gave her in an exchange of brides between her and her in-laws families.
She was married to a man whose sister wed her brother. “I was 15 when my first child born. Now I have three children and pregnant.”
She did not face much violence at in-laws home but she has always been ill for getting married at that early age.
Khadija visited Kabul twice for treatment and but it did not work. “Neither could I enjoy my childhood nor the wedding and now sick.”
According to the provincial Women’s Affairs Department four underage marriages were registered with the department last year and 12 this year.
Masooma Anwari, Ghor women’s affairs director, said the figures did not include marriages that went unreported.
“When a girl goes to her husband’s house, she stops schooling and longs for parent’s love. She faces mental challenges and when gets pregnant at an early age it creates many physical and psychological problems.”
Anwari said most incidents of violence against women resulted from underage and forced marriages.
Although underage marriages are not allowed under the law which is difficult to be enforced in traditional societies like Afghanistan.
Anwari said the situation was so dire in Ghor that girls were given into marriages against money, animals or blood feuds.
She said 80 percent of marriages did not involve girls’ consent as the final say came from men. “In most of the cases women who face violence cannot raise their voices or seek government assitance. They have no choice but to suffer until die,” the director added.
Statistics with the women’s affairs department show incidents of violence against women have increased this year. During the first six months of the previous solar year, 21 incidents took place, but during the same period this year, the incidents stood at 86, including six murders.
Other incidents include suicide, elopement, torture and not paying the alimony. One woman committed suicide, three were wounded wounded, one was kidnapped and the remaining either forced into marriages, tortured or denied alimony.
Anwari said they were concerned about the increasing incidents of violence against women and urged sincere efforts from the government to check violations of women’s rights.
Underage marriages pave the way for suicides as well.
Gul Andam, 33, was married when she was 13. After her mirage, her family and in-laws fell in a dispute over their arranged marriage and it was Taliban’s regime.
She said her start of the new life was in violent manner and the violence continued. After some years, her husband married her cousin and violence on her increased.
She said: “Currently I live in my father’s house and I am tired of life which is full of tension and violence. I don’t want to get back to my husband’s house which is terrible for me.” Gul Andam has now seven children but the dispute still exists.
Some institutions such as the women’s rights, judicial and public health have decided to raise their voice against underage marriages in Ghor because a single entity cannot address the issue.
Nasrullah Nasratyar, head of Neda-i-Zan organization, said underage or children marriages were one of the reason behind growing women’s rights violations. “We want to work on this issue in coordination with government institutions.”
A survey by Neda-i-Zan in five zones of the country dubs , 45 percent of marriages as underage marriages. Neda-i-Zan (Woman’s Voice) is a non-governmental organization which has been active over the past two years in consultancy and defending women’s rights. The organization is also responsible for women’s shelter houses.
Nasratyar said 20 women were reunited with their families after their problems were solved, while 13 other women were still living in the shelter house.
Underage marriages are also dangerous in child delivery
Ghor Civil Hospital Director Dr. Jumma Gul Yaqubi said mortality rates among mothers aged between 15 to 18 years have doubled.
He said children born of underage marriages were weak or disabled compared to mothers giving births in higher ages.
He said mothers in lower age were mentally not prepared to give birth to infants. “The mother also faces lack of blood and other problems and cannot feed her infant properly,” Yaqubi said.
Underage brides forced into hard labour:
Ghor Labour and Social Affairs Director Dr. Gul Ahmad Usmani called underage marriage an unacceptable culture.
He said families with no elder girls for household works often engaged their minor daughters in exchange for elder girls for their sons to do their household works.
Such girls performed hard works at home and underage marriages caused psychological problems in girls, he said.
He said government departments together with religious scholars, people, civil society and media should work for eliminating the scourge of underage marriages.
Sima Joynda, who to charge as the governor of Ghor province about three months back, said her priorities included empowering women, fighting corruption, solving tribal disputes and maintaining security.
Joynda, the country’s second female governor, said she was responsible to defend women’s rights and address violence against women.
She said women in Ghor were paid less attention but she would try to improve their role in local governance.

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