Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
My journey started from Jalalabad city, the capital of Nangarhar province, which is the eastern part of Afghanistan to study at the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand the land of smile. I am pleased to write about early and forced girls’ marriages in eastern region. The early and forced marriages are the two most common forms of violent behavior against women and girls in rural and district areas of Nangarhar province. The forced marriages are arranged but without the consent of all parties and the issues of consent may be murky due to coercion by social or financial pressures and the girls have been traded, given or sold to their prospective husbands.
It is worth mentioning that in Nangarhar province it is not uncommon for an underage girl to be betrothed to a much older man. Almost 3,000 girls in eastern region have been forced into marriage before the age of 18 between 2009 and 2016. Child brides are often separated from friends, family and are denied for education, even though they are at higher risk for violence, HIV, and death during pregnancy or childbirth, and also child marriage is a violation of human rights.
In addition, child brides have a diminished chance of completing their education, resulting in limited opportunities and potential chances for income earning later in life. These girls are twice as likely to be beaten or threatened with violence by their husbands as compared to girls who marry later in life. Furthermore child marriage is usually accompanied by early child bearing, placing young girls at risk for complications during and after childbirth. In fact, complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death for girls age 15-19 in Nangarhar, Afghanistan.
On the other hand, early or child marriage of girls is especially at risk of abuse including violence, assault and even murder. However, victims of all these types of marriage are at greater risk of domestic violence, rape, neglect and forced domestic servitude. In Nangarhar 40% of rapes, murders and mugging cases registered with the government and an estimate of 1,000 girls’ suicide attempts by setting themselves on fire reported each year.
The challenges are the decades of war, or early and forced marriages, made it difficult for those girls to enter traditional public schools. The illiteracy rates are sky high for women and men because of the extreme poverty and the need for extra income, thus most people even children cannot wait 12 years to get a high school diploma. Therefore, many Afghans particularly women fall through the cracks and do not receive education. Furthermore it is indispensable to declare that without an educated population we won’t be able to prevent and stop early or force marriages in our communities. I recommend that educating mothers helps educate future generation in order to reduce domestic violence and it assists to improve the communities.
In fact, an educated woman is more likely to survive childbirth. If she marries later, earns a higher income and has children who attend school and well nourished, they will never allow their husbands to put pressure on their daughters for early and forced marriages. It will help the girls to prolong their education and improve the livelihoods of their families and could work for peaceful communities in the future.
Maqsood Sheer – Afghanistan
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 21