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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

12/30/2011 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Preteen girls sold into servitude to far older men quite common

She's eight years old, and her husband - or the man her parents sold her to - is 60 years of age. As horrific as it sounds, the problem of "child brides" - preteen girls who are sold into servitude to much older men, remains an ongoing problem in Afghanistan.

As horrific as it sounds, the problem of 'child brides' - preteen girls who are sold into servitude to much older men, remains an ongoing problem in Afghanistan.

As horrific as it sounds, the problem of "child brides" - preteen girls who are sold into servitude to much older men, remains an ongoing problem in Afghanistan.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12/30/2011 (3 years ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Afghanistan, child brides, womens' rights


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - while the legal age for female marriage is 16 years of age here, families in remote areas continue the shameful practice. In the case of the girl who was eight at the time of her "marriage," she fled four years afterwards with another man. When she was arrested for running away and marrying again, she was pregnant. Having her baby in prison, she now lives in a shelter. She lives in fear that her original family, as well as her first "husband" will track her down to protect their honor.

"The first step we are planning for her is to get a divorce - she is 18 and has that right," Huma Safi, program manager for Women for Afghan Women says. The group provides female shelters, legal and family counseling. "The second step is to arrange a proper marriage with the second husband who she loves. This marriage will decrease her husband's sentence also. Then she will go and live with him."

When the second Bonn Conference on Afghanistan convened on December 5, Afghan women fought to be heard. The meeting came exactly one decade after the international community gathered to plan Afghanistan's institutional road map, with an emphasis on civil rights.

The priorities of Bonn II, working with a 2014 deadline includes the withdrawal of international coalition forces, a security transition, peace talks with the Taliban and future regional relationships.

Selay Gaffar, from the Afghan Women's Network (AWN), a national coalition of women's organizations, had just three minutes at the conference to urge continued support of women's rights.

Female activists have made an impact raising awareness of gender rights, and improving access to education and healthcare, mostly in urban areas. Women's shelters have also been established. The shelters assist women who have been released from prisons who face stigmatization from returning home.

A Thompson-Reuters poll released last June ranked Afghanistan as the world's most dangerous country for women due to violence, poverty and lack of healthcare.

"From 2001 to about 2003 there was a lot of attention on women's rights, and then it decreased," Huma Safi says. "Our main concern is that we don't want to go back to the situation we had 15 years ago. Not only during the Taliban, but also before the Taliban.

"During the Mujahedeen's civil war a lot of women were raped," she explains. "People then were so tired from war and we were forgotten by the international community."

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