Women’s oppression is a worldwide issue, and the struggles faced by the women in Afghanistan is often not known by many. A major occurrence in this country is engagement and marriage at an exceptionally young age. It has been said that Afghanistan is one of the most challenging places in the world to be a woman, and after doing some research into how their lives are, I can say that I have to agree. The life expectancy there is only 50.87 while in the United States it is 79.68. Even in Iran, a neighboring country, it is much higher at 71.15. Throughout the remained of this blog I will touch mostly on the marriages of young girls and the struggles related to this.
The culture of Afghanistan is entirely different from that of America, and women endure many struggles during their lifetime.
One very common struggle is arranged or forced marriages. At an early age, usually between 12 and 16, many girls are engaged and even married and up to 80% of these marriages are in poor rural areas where they are either forced or the marriage has been arranged. There are even times when these young girls are marrying men in their 60s whom they meet for the first time at their wedding. I may just be a very opinionated person, but I don’t believe meeting someone for the first time at your wedding is healthy or safe. I know this isn’t a primary concern for these particular marriages, but having never met someone prior to being wed could lead to marrying a very violent or abusive person without knowing until afterwards.
The story of Nelosar, a name used as an alias, is just one example of a child married off at age 15 who was beaten by her husband and his family. She has stated that “[she] never loved him, but had to stay…” It is very hard for me to grasp the idea of girls being forced into marrying someone they hardly know or don’t know at all, who may be twice or three times their age, all because their family arranges it. I am very open to cultural differences, but to be that young and have a choice made for you that will affect the rest of your life seems absurd.
Something that is very prevalent in the marriages that take place in Afghanistan is domestic abuse. One woman, Setara, was brutally attacked by her husband who cut her face and chest with a knife almost killing her. Due to laws in place in Afghanistan, she was not allowed to divorce her husband regardless of the events that occurred. She was sold off by her father to the man she married at the age of 7. Her husband was a drug addict and forced her to bring him 5,000 Afghanis each day – an equivalent to about $77.00 in the United States – to support his drug habit. That may not sound like a lot, but in a country where 85% of women have no formal education and are illiterate, it is a lot more than it sounds.
Since at this time women required their spouse to withhold clothes or basic necessities in order to proceed with a divorce, she was unable to do so. She also didn’t have any form of identification, which requires her father or husbands permission to obtain, limiting her choices even more. I don’t believe that when a woman awakes to her husband having a drug withdrawal and cutting her nose off with a knife should be in any way forced to stay with that man. Although her husband ran away after the incident never to be heard from again, she cannot legally be separated from him. This woman will be forced to be “married” to this abusive man and live with the disfiguration he caused her for the rest of her life. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be so difficult for women to have basic rights, and although there isn’t 100% equality for men and women in America, it is ludicrous how restricted women are in Afghanistan.
While the simple thought of children getting married is awful, the physical effects are even worse. According to a 2010 morality survey by the Ministry of Public Health, 53% of women in the 25-49 age group were married by the age of 18; 12% of Afghan girls aged 15-19 became pregnant or gave birth and 47% of deaths of women aged 20-24 were related to pregnancy. Early pregnancy often leads to an obstetric fistula, which is a hole in the birth canal created by prolonged labor. This hole, if not repaired, causes women to become incontinent of urine or feces or both. It not only leads to them being ostracized, but also serious health complications or even death. It’s horrible to think that all of this is 100% preventable by the discontinuance of forced marriages that lead to childhood pregnancies.
This blog only touches on a few of the issues related to the way women are treated in Afghanistan. The topic of struggles faced by Afghan women is something I believe is too often ignored on not known to many individuals.
Not to downplay anyone’s struggles, but this is definitely something to take into consideration the next time you think your day is completely ruined because your coffee wasn’t made correctly, or you have to wait an extra minute or two for your meal at a restaurant because it’s a really busy evening. Just be thankful that you don’t require a male escort to be in public or that you are able to purchase the things you want and need because you are free to obtain any career you choose…