The in-laws of Sahar Gul, a 15-year-old Afghan child bride, were sentenced in an Afghan court to 10 years, reported The Washington Post this weekend. Gul was imprisoned by her in-laws in a basement and then tortured, including being burned and having her fingernails pulled out, in an effort to force her to become a prostitute. The Post reports that the legal age of marriage in Afghanistan is 16, but that the United Nations agency UN Women estimates that half of all girls are forced to marry under age 15. Learn more about the institution of child marriage, and how some Afghan women are taking control of their own destiny, in these National Geographic articles:
In Child Brides (June 2011), Cynthia Gorney describes a marriage ceremony she attended in Rajasthan, India, of two sisters, ages 13 and 15. In addition, their five-year-old niece, Rajani, was married; when very young children are married they are returned to their family until the age of puberty. Gorney examines the effect of these early marriages on the lives of girls and women, and the complexity of attempting to change the situation in places where the idea of young women choosing their own mates is considered “misguided foolishness.” View photos by Stephanie Sinclair and watch a NG Live! Lecture by Gorney on the topic.
Veiled Rebellion: Afghan Women (Dec. 2010), by Elizabeth Rubin, reports: “Afghan women suffer under the constraints of tribalism, poverty, and war. Now they are starting to fight for a just life.” We see images by Lynsey Addario of girls and women who have suffered under these constraints, such as Bibi Aisha, whose ears and nose were cut off by her husband as punishment for fleeing his abuse. However, we also see a woman governor, and women training to be police officers and Olympic boxers.