Law on forced marriages still widely
KABUL, 16 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - Standing out from the
crowd in a queue of women waiting outside the Afghan
Ministry of Women’s Affairs to submit their
complaints, Turgul Khan looks a little confused.
The 22-year-old resident of Jilgah in the central
province of Wardak is seeking help and advice from the
ministry's legal department as his family is under
pressure from relatives to marry off his 13-year-old
sister and he's not happy about it.
Although the legal age for marriage in Afghanistan
is 16 for females and 18 for males, many people,
particularly in rural areas, either ignore the law or
claim they are not aware of it.
Turgul said that when he was six he accidently shot
and killed his uncle’s daughter while playing with a
loaded rifle. His uncle forgave him. “But now, after
16 years, he wants my sister to marry his son, saying
that in the past I killed his daughter,” Turgul told
IRIN. “But my sister does not want that and neither do
The practice of resolving conflicts between
families by giving daughters or sisters to the
agrieved party remains common in Afghanistan, local
human rights groups have said.
“If the laws say that we should do that, than
neither my sister nor I have a problem with that, but
if the law does not approve it, we will not do that,”
Turgul said. He maintained that his uncle, who was
formerly a judge during the Taliban regime, was a
powerful man in his community, while his family was
Initially, the young man went to the district head
asking him to resolve the issue, but he reportedly
supported the claim of his relative.
The case of Turgul’s sister illustrates the
continuing problem of forced marriages in the country.
"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 earlier.
According to the women’s ministry and women’s NGOs,
approximately 57 percent of Afghan girls get married
before the age of 16.
The practice of forced marriages is carried out for
many different reasons, including giving a female in
marriage as repayment for a debt, or to resolve a
feud. Many Afghan families determine whom a daughter
should marry without her consent. The Afghan
Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) estimates
that up to 80 percent of all marriages in Afghanistan
are conducted without the consent of the parties
Tradition and an improper interpretation of
religious rules lie behind the many and varied abuses
of women's rights in the country, including forced
marriages, Baryalai Sabir Barya, a legal adviser with
the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM),
told IRIN, adding that illiteracy and a lack of
education were also contributing to the problem.
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]