Afghan crisis increasing risk of child marriage, trafficking, Unicef says
Kabul, Nov 12 (EFE).- The serious economic crisis in Afghanistan is forcing an increasing number of families to sell their children or pledge the girls for marriage at a very young age in order to claim the dowry, the Unicef warned on Friday.
“The extremely dire economic situation in Afghanistan is pushing more families deeper into poverty and forcing them to make desperate choices, such as putting children to work and marrying girls off at a young age,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore warned in a statement.
She said that even before the ongoing political instability in the country – after the Taliban seized full control of the country on Aug. 15 – the United Nations agency had already registered 183 child marriages and 10 cases of minors being sold between 2018 and 2019 in just two western provinces of Herat and Baghdis.
“I am deeply concerned by reports that child marriage in Afghanistan is on the rise. We have received credible reports of families offering daughters as young as 20 days old up for future marriage in return for a dowry,” Fore said.
According to Unicef data, around 28 percent of Afghans aged between 15-49 were married before the age of 18.
Moreover, the instability in the wake of the Taliban coming to power and the subsequent halt in the supply of international aid have aggravated problems for Afghan families who are struggling to deal with the pandemic, a food crisis and the onset of winter
The executive director highlighted that the Taliban were still not allowing most Afghan girls to go to school, which increases the risk of child marriage, as schools often offer the “best protection” against minors being forced to work or get married.
Fore said that the Unicef was carrying out various measures to try and raise awareness among communities over the risks of child marriage, which increases the possibility of abuse and health risks, apart from launching a cash assistance program to help families avoid having to take desperate decisions for survival.
“But this is not enough. We call on central, provincial and local authorities to take concrete measures to support and safeguard the most vulnerable families and girls. We urge the de facto authorities to prioritize the reopening of schools (…). The future of an entire generation is at stake,” she added.
During the earlier Taliban regime (1996-2001), the Islamists did not allow girls to attend school and confined women inside homes.