In Focus 27th August, 2014
Early Marriage: Selling the daughters.

When I think of early marriage — forced marriage — I become mad and helpless. I have no tolerance for it. I want to shout out loud, so that all creatures of God could hear me.

Early marriages are harmful to girls because they are still children and don’t understand what is going on in the world. A girl of twelve to eighteen is not a grown person. She is not ready to begin a new life. Her body is not ready, not according to science, psychology, knowledge, or logic. A child doesn’t have sexual interests.

Childhood is a time to enjoy moments with her toys and find out which kind of sports she likes; what she is good at. Marriage is like a school; a university with rules and laws. It is not play. How can we expect a child to build a family? How can a child be mother of another child?

I have seen girls marry and become mothers as young as twelve years old. Many die every day in maternity hospitals. The jihadi leaders misuse religion and marry young girls, not just for the first time, but as second, third, and fourth wives.

Why does a family sell its daughters in marriage? I think it is wildness, a madness, and a lack of knowledge and a lack of humanity that causes a family to sell its young daughters. I don’t agree that if a family is poor that the father or brother then has the right to sell a girl. Poverty is no excuse. Women are not like clothes to be sold in the market.

Unfortunately we see that in my country in order to stay alive, girls must sacrifice their lives and their futures and accept marriage at an early age.

A form of slavery

For a man it is a dream to have a young teenage bride, a wife who is fresh like an apple, a girl whom he can play with, plan her dreams, her future, and her destiny as if she were a toy.

But what is it like for the girl? The man who buys a young girl holds her future and destiny in his hands. She must do as he says. It is worse than slavery.

Families who support and accept these marriages believe that if a girl is married early she can understand her in-laws and her husband better because she has grown up in their house. She is less likely to ignore them or disagree with them if she is young.

They believe if she becomes a mother at a young age she has plenty of energy and will still be young when her children are grown up. There are many examples of early marriages where it is hard to know who in the wedding party is the mother-in-law and who is the sister-in-law because they are almost the same age.

These families also misunderstand education for girls. They think if a girl leaves the house, she will learn too much about life and be considered a “cheap” woman.

They think the only important destiny for a girl is marriage. The girls accept early marriage because it is tradition.

I wish my pen could draw the feelings of those broken hearts of Afghan girls who are victims of forced marriages. They come from wrong beliefs about our religion, a lack of law enforcement, and the fact that the girls don’t know their rights.

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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.

This essay continues in Early Marriage: Not the Only Destiny.

Photo by Jodi Cobb.

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