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Desperate families in Afghanistan are selling their young daughters so the rest of their family can survive

Marrying children under 15 is illegal in the country but it has been commonly practiced in rural areas of Afghanistan.

Desperate families in Afghanistan are selling their young daughters so the rest of their family can survive
Image source: Getty Images

Heartbroken parents are being forced to sell their children to get by as Afghanistan plunges into a full-blown humanitarian crisis. Hunger and poverty have been compounded in the country since the Taliban took over with international aid drying up. The economy that was being propped up by international aid is collapsing as countries and institutions are wary of legitimizing the Taliban as Afghanistan's leaders. Life has become hard under the Taliban rule and parents are being faced with heartbreaking choices including selling their girl children as child brides, reported CNN. With winter looming large, and parts of the country already being covered in snow, many Afghanistan people are worried about where their next meal is going to come from. "Day by day, the numbers are increasing of families selling their children," said Mohammad Naiem Nazem, a human rights activist in Badghis. "Lack of food, lack of work, the families feel they have to do this."


Parwana Malik, a 9-year-old girl, has her childhood cut short as she was dragged away by a 55-year-old man who bought her for 200,000 Afghanis (roughly $2,200) in the form of sheep, land, and cash to her father, Abdul Malik. Parwana's family says they have no choice. They had lived for four years in an Afghan displacement camp in northwestern Badghis province, surviving on humanitarian aid and menial work. Since the Taliban took over, the lack of aid is driving parents to make hard decisions. Parwana said she didn't want to go with the 'old man,' fearing she'll be beaten and made to work at his home. "My father sold me because we don't have bread, rice, and flour," said Parwana. She dreamed of becoming a teacher and wanted to continue her education but had little say in her future. The crisis has affected girl children the most, with many having the education already cut short. "As long as a girl is in school, her family is invested in her future," said Heather Barr, from Human Rights Watch. "As soon as a girl falls out of education, then suddenly it becomes much more likely that she's going to be married off."



Parwana was dressed in a black head-covering with a colorful floral garland around her neck as Qorban came to take her away. "This is your bride. Please take care of her ... please don't beat her," Abdul Malik told Qorban, who 'bought' her. Qorban led her out of her home as her parents watched on in agony. Parwana tried to resist, digging her feet into the ground but she was dragged to the car and taken away.

INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 26: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) An Afghanistan evacuee waves whilst arriving at Incheon International Airport on August 26, 2021 in Incheon, South Korea. A total of 378 Afghans arrived in South Korea on Thursday as part of Seoul's efforts to evacuate local co-workers of the country's embassy and other facilities in the war-torn nation after the Taliban's seizure of power. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)


Qorban said he doesn't view the sale as a marriage. "(Parwana) was cheap, and her father was very poor and he needs money," said Qorban. "She will be working in my home. I won't beat her. I will treat her like a family member. I will be kind." Abdul Malik has no control over what happens to Parwana. "The old man told me, 'I'm paying for the girl. It's none of your business what I'm doing with her ... that's my business,'" said Malik.


Malik had already sold her 12-year-old sister several months ago but he was forced to sell Parawana as well. Malik is broken and riddled with guilt, shame, and worry. He borrowed "lots of money" to avoid selling Parvana but Malik says he had no choice. "We are eight family members. I have to sell to keep other family members alive," he said. Malik is aware that the money from selling Parwana could last only a few months before he has to look for another solution.



Marrying children under 15 is illegal in the country but it has been commonly practiced in rural areas of Afghanistan. Hunger and poverty compounded by the lack of international aid have seen a sharp rise in child marriages since August. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), more than 650,000 people have been displaced this year due to fighting, with many living in tents and huts in internal displacement camps like Parwana's family. "It's absolutely cataclysmic," said Barr. "We don't have months or weeks to stem this emergency ... we are in the emergency already." 

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