A high proportion of marriages in Afghanistan
involve girls below the legal age, according to reports from the Ministry
of Women's Affairs and NGOs. As many as 57 percent involve young women
under 16, some of them as young as nine.
"Child marriage is a serious issue in Afghanistan because it has a very
negative impact on society," Dr Suraya Subehrang, deputy minister of
women's affairs, told IRIN in the Afghan capital Kabul on Tuesday.
Subehrang explained that such marriages increased the maternal mortality
rate and denied many young women the chance to get an education. Often,
after a child marriage, husbands and/or parents-in-law refuse to allow the
child-wife to go to school under threat of violence.
According to Afghanistan's new constitution, the minimum age of marriage
for females is 16 and for males 18, but in rural and even some urban areas
the tradition of marrying off daughters while young in order to receive
money remains common among the poor.
It is precisely this issue that Medica Mondiale, an International NGO
supported by the German government, and the office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), working to support traumatised
young women in crisis zones, are involved in. "Child marriage affects
girls badly in many ways. It blocks them from education and any
possibility of independent work," Rachel Wareham, Medica Mondiale's head
of mission, told IRIN.
She said that it also often subjected them to repeated pregnancy and
childbirth before they had reached physical maturity, which often produced
serious physical trauma, psychological disturbance and sometimes lifelong
physical and emotional damage.
The maternal mortality rate is very high in Afghanistan, according to data
from the United Nations Population Fund in Afghanistan (UNFPA). Every
hour, two women die while giving birth - the highest maternal mortality
rate in Asia.
"Maternal mortality is partly linked to a lack of trained medical
professionals, but it is also very clearly linked to girls who are giving
birth when they are not yet ready." Wareham noted. [Source: IRIN]
Posted on 2004-07-28