Before discussing how to end child marriage in developing countries such as Afghanistan, let’s define the meaning of child marriage:

According to the 2020 UNICEF Report, child marriage is the practice of children under age 18 marrying in a formal ceremony or informal agreement between families.

My Experience As A Child Bride in Afghanistan

Child marriage is a very toxic practice that puts the lives of two children at risk, especially girls. The intention of parents who agree to child marriage is linked to various factors such as poverty, religion, culture, and political conflict.

Girls are much more vulnerable to child marriage as compared to boys. The 2020 UNICEF report states that child marriage occurs among girls five times more often than among boys.

Afghan families practice child marriage for various reasons such as poverty, societal stereotypes, male-dominated societies, religious beliefs, terrorism, large numbers of children, and illiteracy. Each reason is connected to the others. For example, a poor, illiterate family with many children to feed may be most vulnerable to child marriage.

Child marriage is most common in developing countries such as Afghanistan. Between 2011 and 2020, more than 140 million girls became child brides.

The practice of child marriage occurs frequently in conservative regions of Afghanistan such as Herat, Logar, and Konfuz. Fathers and their sons are considered the head of household, and are pressured to marry their daughters or sisters at a young age. This practice is so common that girls accept this as the norm.

Girls are a good source of income for impoverished families. They force their daughters to marry at a young age because the “bride price” is higher for younger girls. Religious families often believe that when their daughter has her first period, she is an adult and ready to marry. Some parents actually believe that it is a sin if their daughter is now an “adult,” but still unmarried! As their daughter gets older, some families believe that she will lose her appeal and receive no offers of marriage. Some girls are influenced by societal pressures and believe if they are “too old,” they won’t find a husband. It is considered shameful to be “old” and unmarried.

Child marriage continues to take place in my own family. My brother recently sold two of his daughters, ages of fourteen and fifteen, into marriage, and one is about to have her first baby. Child marriage is an accepted practice among many families and they do not think of the negative effects on the lives of young girls.

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