|AP Human Geography||
“I don’t want to marry the man who is 45 years old, the same age as my father,” said Humaira while sitting beside a window in her house and crying (Afghanistan: Child Forced Marriages Still a Common Tradition, IRIN News). In the Middle East, young girls between the ages of 12-17 get married to men that are twenty to thirty years older than them. According to UNICEF, 57% of marriages in the country of Afghanistan involve girls below the age of 16. Young women and girls are forced into marriage for different reasons. Some are forced to marry in order to end a dispute, to earn money, to get rid of an extra mouth to feed, or to pay of a debt by exchanging their daughter. Many of these girls are forced to quit their education to become the wife of a middle-aged man. I believe that forced marriage is the reason why the Middle East is behind the rest of the world powers and has a low Human Development Index. Women education is a big way to reduce the fertility rate, reduce poverty, raise the Gender Equality Measurement, and improve living standards in the Middle East.
Many of these young girls become very depressed due to their forced marriages. They are too young to become wives and have children, have to quit their education, have to leave their family, and there is typically no love in the marriage. In fact, many of these marriages are very abusive. 17-year old Mariam from Gaza, Palestine was forced into marriage with a 37-year old man in order to escape poverty. He would verbally abuse her and beat her. When she ran away to her father's house, he told her, "You should return to your husband’s house no matter what he did to you. You should learn to accept this. Do you understand?"
Many of these girls have nowhere or no one to turn to. Eventually, most of the young brides commit suicide. In Iraq, there is an ongoing epidemic of suicide due to the high rate of underage forced marriages. Some women and girls practice self-immolation, shoot themselves, and stab themselves to escape the forced marriages. Below is a picture of Abdella Hassan mourning over his 16-year old daughter who committed to escape her marriage to her cousin.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is a wonderful book that displays the struggled of forced marriage in Afghanistan. In the book, 15-year old Mariam is forced into marriage with a 50-year old man. He forces her to wear a niqab, a head scarf that covers everything except the eyes. He rapes her and begins to abuse her due to the fact that she cannot bear children. He makes her to spend her days doing household chores and eventually breaks her heart by marrying a second wife. The book gives us a first-person perspective of underaged forced marriages.
10-year old Nujood Ali's youth and childhood came to an end in order to get married to a man nearly three times her age. Nujood's family didn't have enough money to feed all of the children, so he gave away his oldest daughter to a middle-aged man. Leaving her parents and her sisters, she arrived in an isolated village to live with a stranger who was now her husband. Although he swore that he wouldn't have sexual relations with her until she was older, he raped her every day. She had to endure verbal abuse for her mother-in-law during the day and then she had to face physical abuse with her husband during the night. Finally, she fled her husband's house and went to the courthouse of the capital to demand a divorce. Her courage has inspired many of the child brides in the Middle East and the rest of the world. In this book, Nujood shares her story and gives a deep incite into the life of a child bride in a forced marriage.
Aboul Jalal, Rasha. "Forced Underage Marriages Continue in Gaza." . N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/08/underage-marriage-child-palestinians-gaza.html>.
Tim, Arango. "Where Arranged Marriages Are Customary, Suicides Grow More Common.". N.p., 1 Jan. 2013. Web. . <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/07/world/middleeast/more-suicides-in-iraq-region-where-arranged-marriage-is-common.html>.
"AFGHANISTAN: Child forced marriages still a common tradition." . N.p., 1 Feb. 2007. Web. . <http://www.irinnews.org/in-depth/69984/28/afghanistan-child-forced-marriages-still-a-common-tradition>.