Afghanistan has many traditions that allow families to marry their daughters at young ages without their consent.
For example, there is a tradition in some provinces that allows families to engage two children even before their birth. Called Naami kardan in Dari, it means to promise the girl to someone.
In some places, families sell their daughters to another family for bride prices ranging from $1000 to $20,000. Families also exchange their young daughters for sons. All of this unfortunately makes child marriage a very successful business.
My neighbor’s story shows how unfair the situation is for girls and young women in Afghanistan.
Our neighbor has six daughters and one son, but the son has a mental problem. Last year, the family wanted to marry their son to a girl from a distant neighborhood, but the bride’s family would not agree to giving their daughter to our neighbor’s son because of his mental disorder.
Instead, the family in the distant neighborhood agreed to give their daughter to the father in my neighbor’s family. In exchange they received our neighbor’s daughter for their own son to marry.
After two years, our neighbor then was able to exchange one of their younger daughters, named Sunam, to another family who gave them a young girl who would marry their son with the mental disorder.
In this country, a girl who is trained in doing the chores, being obedient, and is kept a virgin, can be sold or traded without her consent. She is obliged to leave behind everything: her childhood, her friends, her family, her education.
These young brides miss out on education because once Afghan girls are married, they are not allowed to continue going to school. The laws don’t allow married girls to continue in school with unmarried girls.
I believe girls should be allowed to marry when they have finished their higher education and can stand on their own feet. Then they can educate their own children to become productive members of society, while continuing their lives as they want.
In Afghanistan, according to United Nations and UNICEF statistics, 57 percent of Afghan brides are under the age of sixteen, and the mortality rate for women dying in childbirth is very high: 18 percent.