An Afghan woman told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in a report published Tuesday her husband recently sold their two young daughters — one just 18 months old — into marriage because their family is starving and desperately needed the money.
“Fahima has wept many times since her husband sold their two young daughters into marriage to survive the drought gripping western Afghanistan,” AFP reported on October 26.
“Oblivious to the deal, six-year-old Faristeh and 18-month-old Shokriya sit by her side in a mud-brick and tarpaulin shelter for displaced people,” the news agency detailed.
“My husband said if we don’t give away our daughters, we will all die because we don’t have anything to eat,” Fahima said.
“I feel bad giving away my daughters for money,” she admitted.
Fahima’s eldest child “commanded a bride price of $3,350 and the toddler $2,800 — to be paid in installments over several years until the time comes to join their new families, their future husbands still minors themselves,” according to AFP.
While child marriage has been ingrained in Afghan culture for centuries, increased famine caused by recent and ongoing droughts across western Afghanistan has pushed a rising number of Afghans to sell their children into marriage in return for cash sums.
“Village and displaced people’s camp leaders say the numbers of young girls getting betrothed started to rise during a 2018 famine and surged this year when the rains failed once more,” AFP reported Tuesday.
“Among farmers driven from their homes, AFP journalists quickly found more than a dozen families who felt forced to sell their daughters into marriage,” the news agency revealed.
“More than half the population of Afghanistan – a record 22.8 million people — will face acute food insecurity from November,” the World Food Program (WFP), warned on October 25.
“In rural areas, the severe impact of the second drought in four years continues to impact the livelihoods of 7.3 million people who rely on agriculture and livestock to survive,” according to WFP, which is the food assistance arm of the United Nations (U.N.).
Afghanistan’s food insecurity has been exacerbated by the country’s recent political turmoil. The Taliban terror group seized control of Afghanistan on August 15 by ousting the nation’s U.S.-backed government from Kabul. The action spurred Washington to block the Taliban’s access to “virtually all of the Afghanistan central bank’s $9 billion in reserves, most of which are held in the U.S.,” Deutsche Welle (DW) reported on August 24.
This financial freeze, followed closely by a similar fund blockage by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), caused Afghanistan to suffer from an acute shortage of U.S. dollars beginning in mid-August.
“With no new shipment of dollars arriving to shore it up, the local currency, afghani, has crashed to record lows, sending prices soaring. Prices of staples like flour, oil, and rice have risen by as much as 10 percent-20 percent in a few days,” DW observed on August 24.
The Taliban, a terrorist organization that adheres to fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law, previously ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 under a sharia system. The group confirmed on August 17 it planned to reimpose sharia on Afghanistan moving forward, which includes a ban on girls and women attending school or working.
“[T]he Taliban, by preventing women from working and stopping girls in grades 7-12 from going back to school, are setting the ideal conditions for violence against women,” Heather Barr, the co-director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, told the Diplomat on October 12.
The U.S.-based magazine detailed a recent incident in eastern Afghanistan’s rural Parwan province in which a Taliban “loyalist” allegedly forced a high school-aged female student into marrying him.
“Close to the Pakistani border but inside Afghanistan, Shabnam, a high school student, who asked to have only her first name in this story, said that she also had been forced into an unwanted marriage,” the Diplomat reported.
“A Taliban loyalist in Parwan province had tormented her, she said, insisting that if his group came to power, she would have to surrender her virginity to them,” according to the magazine.
“When the Taliban took the district where she lives, she says, ‘the same boy who taunted me just claimed me as his wife and was given permission’ by the Taliban local leaders to do so,” Shabnam alleged.
Neither Shabnam’s precise age nor that of the Taliban loyalist who allegedly forced her into marriage were disclosed by the Diplomat.
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