Child Marraige

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Asian Institute of Technology (AIT)
School of Environment, Resources and Development (SERD)
Regional and Rural Development Planning (RRDP)

Palwasha Tokhy Meranzai
Impact of forced and early marriages on rural society

Background:
Child marriage has long been practiced in Afghanistan and justified by certain interpretations of Islamic texts and tradition. There is very little data on the problem but child marriage appears more common than even the data shows. Child marriage affects girls badly in many ways. It blocks them from education and any possibility of independent work. It subjects them to pregnancy and childbirth before they have reached physical maturity, a circumstance that often produces serious physical trauma, psychological disturbance, and sometimes lifelong physical and/or emotional incapacities. Confusion about the legal status of child marriages results from widespread ignorance of the law by the majority of society. Even ministers were in many cases, unaware of the actual minimum ages for marriage. In Afghanistan marriage is regulated by civil law, various interpretations of Shariah law, and traditional and customary practices. Civil law sets the minimum marriage age for females at 16, but it permits a father to give his daughter in marriage at age 15, if he chooses. Shariah law sets the minimum age for females at 15. Customary practices approve marriage at earlier ages. In any case, Civil law takes precedence over both Shariah law and customary practice. (Shariah law is applied in matters not specifically set forth in the civil codes.) Although the non registration of the marriages and the absence of identification documents do not allow the collection of accurate data on the subject, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) consider the non respect of the minimum age requirement to be the major violation of the right to marry or not to marry. In addition, Afghanistan is bound to end child marriage through its ratification of certain internationalconventions including The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Based on annual report of AIHRC suicides, self immolations, murders, sexual perversions and psychological disorders are amongst the many negative consequences of child marriage. These also include the increase of maternal and child mortality rates, and the low level of education for women which has a long term effect on the role these play in the country’s political, social and economic life. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report, girls who marry during their childhood do not develop properly, neither physically nor psychologically. They are frequently denied access to education and are subject to different types of diseases arising from abnormal births and isolation. Childhood marriages are common place and prevalent in Afghanistan. In this respect, the Afghan Constitution has clear provisions to support families and children. Based on the reports 57% of Afghan girls are forced to marry before the age of eighteen. Pregnancies of sixteen years old girls are relatively common in Afghanistan. Problem statement:

Child marriage is a serious problem, and there are frequent cases of young girls being married to the much older men. Many times, children and teenagers are pulled out of school to marry, depriving them of an education and meaningful work. Victims suffer health risks associated with early sexual activity, such as high risks of maternal and child mortality and sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV/AIDS. They are also likely to be victims of domestic, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, and may suffer from social isolation. Child marriages have negative and unexpected consequences like propagation of disease, divorce cases and escaping from home. While parent’s poverty and illiteracy may lead to their...
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