Increasing Poverty in Afghanistan Forces Children into Marriage
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 11:35 AM

Despite efforts by Afghanistan's government and international human-rights organizations, arranged marriages between children as young as age 3 still continue in certain areas of the country, particularly in rural areas where poverty and lack of education are pervasive, AP reported. According to UNICEF, approximately 16 percent of Afghan children are married before they are 15. There is also evidence that increasing poverty, brought on by years of conflict and insecurity, is pushing down the average marriage age even further in severely impoverished areas, as the girl's family in an arranged marriage gets a "bride price" of double the per capita income for a year or more, according to the World Bank. "The engagement happens before birth in some cases," said Orzala Ashraf, founder of Humanitarian Assistance for Women and Children in Afghanistan. Forced marriages most often lead to unhappiness, which in turn causes men in arranged marriages to take second wives of their choosing as permitted by Islamic law. Women, however, must remain in the union and are often exposed to violence from their husbands and their in-laws if they complain or resist, leading many women to commit suicide as a last resort to escape (see "RFE/RL Newsline," August 22, 2007). While the minimum legal age of marriage in Afghanistan is 16 for girls and 18 for boys, child marriages still account for nearly half of all marriages, according to the United Nations. JC

Published in: "Increasing Poverty in Afghanistan Forces Children into Marriage," Jessica Coakley, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline Vol. 11, No. 191, Part 3, 16 October 2007. 

Copyright (c) 2007 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. All rights reserved.