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The Killid Group
Marriage In the way of right to educationWritten by Suhaila Weda Khamosh
Saturday, 16 July 2011 10:52
Married at 16, many girls are unable to finish class 10 in Afghanistan. Education is a fundamental right under the law. The government has not been able to enforce it.
Mari is in class ten in a Kabul high school. A mother of two, she is persevering with her dream of education but it is not easy. Her husband she says "does not prevent her (but) the other members of the family especially my mother-in-law do not want me to go to school."
"I got married five years ago at the insistence of my parents," the young woman, who did not want her real name to be revealed, said in an interview. "I am not able to attend regularly, and I have remained in one class for four years." She mentions "family problems and child birth" as reasons though she says she rested for less than a week both times she had a child.
School starts at 6.30 in the morning. Before that Mari has to drop the children at her mother's house where they are looked after. "On days I face violence at home, from my mother-in-law and others, I can't focus on my studies," she laments. "My husband once broke my hand on his mother's prodding ... I was also slapped on the face."
Like Mari, a third of girls in Afghanistan's schools are either married or betrothed, and have difficulty completing class 10. The Ministry of Education has identified 200 districts where girls are missing from classes 11 and 12. There are some 398 districts in Afghanistan.
The essential problem is a clash between two rights in Afghanistan: the right to marriage (Article 70) and the right to education. Under the law, girls can marry at 16 years and boys at 18. According to Gulsum Sediqi who heads an Afghan women lawyers association in Herat, it is hard for a woman to claim constitutional rights in a tradition bound society like Afghanistan.
Nadira, a three-month-old bride, is a student of Aesha Durani High School in Kabul. She blames her inability to keep up with her schoolwork on the "weakness in my mind since my marriage." She says, "I feel so discouraged. I won't go to university after I finish high school."
Rahmana Sahebi Askaryar, headmistress of the Aryana High School in the capital city confirms that most girls are married between 15 and 18 years. They are getting married earlier than before, she says..
Khairul Nesa, teacher at Kabul's Aesha Durani High School, agrees. "Compared to last year, the number of married students has increased in schools. There are more than 40 married students in classes 10 to 12," she said.
Marriage also seems to affect their ability to enjoy the school like before. "I feel very isolated in school," Mari says. "I stay aloof.."
"Ministry of Education should take steps to support such students. Married students feel more and more discouraged. Then they quit or participate only in the examination," says Ms. Nazari who is the deputy head of the Aesha Durani school.
There are 10,000 students at the Malaka Suraya High School. Over the last three years, 712 students between classes seven and 12 have dropped out: 244 male, and 468 female. The head of the school, Kawkaba, blames early marriage for her girls leaving school.
In Balkh province, Ghulam Haider Qanun, deputy director in the Education Department says married girl students have said special schools should be set up for them. No action has been taken on the proposal although the Ministry of Education in Kabul has made it a requirement for all provinces, according to Dastgir Munir, director of the Secondary Literacy programme in Afghanistan.
Par win Radii, in charge of the Women's Protection Unit at the Kabul regional office of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, wants to see a change in laws. "There's a contradiction between Article 70 and juvenile law which defines anyone under 18 as a child. A girl getting married at 16 is deprived of education," she says.
But Professor Shahla Farid from the faculty of law and political science, Kabul University, does not agree the problem lies with the age of marriage. The law only indicates the age at which girls are eligible to get married, she says. The present challenge is from anti-female social customs. "It's a weakness of the ministries of women affairs and education that two fundamental rights - education and marriage - contradict each other," she says.
A draft family law, where the age of marriage has been raised to 19 for girls, was submitted to the Ministry of Justice last year. But this is tied in red tape. According to Abdul Majid Ghanizada, deputy director of Afghanistan's Legislative Department, the Ministry of Women's Affairs will have to propose amendments to civil law because the draft family law violates the hierarchy of civil law.