In Focus 27th August, 2014
Early Marriage: Not the only destiny.

This is the second part of Early Marriage: Selling the Daughters.

If graves and cemeteries could talk, they would tell the stories of those girls who killed themselves in protest against forced marriages. But the dead rest under the cold soil and very few people know what happened to them.

Early marriages or forced marriages are not rare occurrences.

I think a majority of girls accept arranged marriages because they can’t imagine any other future. They think that whatever their parents say is right and if they disobey the family they will become cheap girls without value. Girls’ lives exist within the family.

At the same time there are no other options besides early marriage for many girls in Afghanistan. It hurts me that in so many cases a girl accepts an early marriage so she can have three meals a day.

With pride I hold up my head in opposition to forced and early marriage. I began my fight against forced marriage by myself and opened the doors for others. I used to feel ashamed of being a girl and a woman, but no longer.

Thirteen-year-old bride

As I watch the video about ten-year-old Farzana, I know it is a story of only one of a thousand girls. Thanks to those who worked on this and brought the story to the media. I grew up in this country and have witnessed many such stories myself. One of my relatives married at age thirteen and stopped going to school in sixth grade. While the other girls could go out wearing only a chadar (long shawl), she had to wear a burqa.

At age fourteen she became the mother of a son. In the first twelve years of her marriage she had a child every year. Now she is the mother of eleven boys and a girl and she is a superstar with the in-laws because of having eleven boys. She looks tired and sick. She says she would never let her daughter become a child bride.

It is hard to know how to protect girls from early marriage in a country where an elected leader has had two wives. It is very common in Afghanistan to have more than one wife, although it is not common for men who are famous or in politics to talk about it. It is hard to protect girls from early marriage in a country where Parliament refuses to pass the law outlawing it. So it is our job to end it.

I don’t expect victory for Afghan women until every one of us stands up and raises her voice and stops being silent. One day this violent cancer will end—not only in Afghanistan, but all over the world.

How can we build successful, educated, friendly, and happy families when the mother of the family is a child? Who can heal the pains of my poor Afghanistan when there is a generation of children born from rape, early marriages, and forced marriages?

I hope that women will wake up and understand that although their parents tell them to marry, they are wrong if they do not consider whether it is the right time and the right husband.

I don’t want to talk about a right age for women to marry. I just want Afghan women to have a choice and to be allowed to think independently and make up their own minds whether to marry or not.

Imagine your life in a dark room. Imagine a young bride aged twelve behind the curtains, helpless and lost in the first days after her wedding.

In the middle of the night I argue with God on this and ask him why he is silent? Marriage is not the only destiny of an Afghan woman.

Be with me in this campaign. Be with us in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and India. Help us not to be raped, not to be circumcised. Help us to be heard. Do not be silent.

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This post was written by N. and originally appeared on the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. Republished with permission.

The Afghan Women’s Writing Project was founded in 2009 in defense of the human right to voice one’s story. Poems & essays by Afghan women are published online at awwproject.org.

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