AFGHANISTAN: New contract to curb child marriages
KABUL, 14 March 2007 (IRIN) - The Supreme Court of
Afghanistan has approved a new marriage contract which
is expected to help stop child and forced marriages in
The new 15-page formal marriage contract, the
‘Nikah Nama’, has been welcomed by women’s rights NGOs
in a country where 60 to 80 percent of marriages are
forced, according to the Afghan Independent Human
Rights Commission (AIHRC).
“The new marriage contract is a strong legal
instrument that will end child marriages and will
empower women’s legal status after marriage,” said
Nibila Wafiq, a women’s rights programme officer for
German NGO Medica Mondiale.
In Afghanistan, the legal age for marriage is 16
for girls and 18 for boys, but human rights groups say
every year thousands of Afghan girls are forced to
marry at a younger age.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund
(UNICEF), 57 percent of marriages in Afghanistan
involve girls below the legal age of 16.
The new marriage document stipulates that if a man
wants to marry, he should make sure that his would-be
wife is at least 16. Marriage certificates will not be
issued for underage brides.
Gender activists see the new marriage contract as a
courageous reform in a society where only six years
ago women were deprived of education, work and
political participation. However, officials note that
only one to three couples apply for formal marriage
registration per day in a country of about 25 million
people. This would suggest that the vast majority of
Afghans are not officially registering their
To counter this, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs
has launched a marriage registration awareness
campaign to boost the number of legally registered
couples. Officials say that one of the messages they
will be trying to get across is that an Afghan man
will not compromise his traditionally dominant
position in the family by officially registering his
In Afghanistan, men can have up to four wives as
allowed by Islamic law. Abdul Wakeel Omari, an
official at Afghanistan’s Supreme Court, told IRIN
that it would be possible for any Afghan man to have
four marriage contracts, all valid at the same time.
Under Afghan civil law, the right to divorce is the
prerogative of men. However, Medica Mondiale has
lobbied officials in the country’s Supreme Court to
grant the right of divorce to women whose husbands
marry another woman without their approval.
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a
project the Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs. IRIN is UN humanitarian news and
information service, but may not necessarily reflect
the views of the United Nations or its agencies.
[This report does not necessarily
reflect the views of the United Nations]