Child Marriage in Afghanistan Linked to Poverty, Domestic Violence
Monday, March 2, 2009 12:29 PM

Servitude and slavery of children in Afghanistan is on the rise and is often disguised as marriage. Families sometimes choose to sell their daughters as “loan brides” who effectively become slaves to their husbands in exchange for cancelling debts owed by the family or to settle feuds. Boys are also sold as servants for similar reasons.

Forced and early marriage has many consequences for young girls. Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality, which are often caused by early marriage. Afghanistan has the second highest under-age-5 mortality rate.  The lifetime risk of maternal death is one in eight, and Afghanistan and Sierra Leone are ranked highest in the world for this risk.

Domestic violence is very common for young brides, including physical and sexual assault. The country’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs received more than 150 reports of selling children, especially girls, in Herat province in 2008.

Article 22 of the 2004 Constitution states that, "any kind of discrimination and privilege among citizens of Afghanistan is forbidden. Citizens of Afghanistan, men and women, have equal rights and responsibilities in front of the law." However, in 2002, only two percent of Afghan women possessed national identification cards, the rest not having any proof of citizenship. Moreover, there is no law preventing child marriage or servitude, according to the director of the Department of Women Affairs in Herat.

Compiled from: Afghanistan: Child servitude, marriage resemble modern-day slavery, IRIN, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (4 February 2009); Gender in Afghanistan, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (02 June 2007) [PDF, 6 pages]; The State of the World’s Children 2009: Maternal and Newborn Health, UNICEF, (December 2008).