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The Killid Group
Marriage in absentiaWritten by Nazifa Sadat
Monday, 27 February 2012 12:28
A relative can give permission if a bride is unwilling and her family members want to stop the wedding.
Bibi Gul could not stop the marriage of her 9-year-old daughter to a man with physical disabilities. "My husband had agreed to marry our daughter in exchange for two acres of land. He died two months ago. My daughter was forcibly taken away from me," she says.
The anguished mother says her daughter, who was not consulted, was hit and abused by the man who she had been promised to. The Padar Wakil (the attorney for the bride in the marriage house), who is generally a close relative, gave his assent without bothering to ask the terrified child bride.
Nadia Samar Osmani, lawyer in the Balkh Women's Affairs Presidency, says she insists on the participation of the bride in the marriage proceedings or it "increases problems in the families as well".
The mullah who is conducting the wedding should be satisfied that both sides are agreeable to the marriage, she says.
Abdul Hanan, a senior cleric in Balkh, says underage marriages are against social and moral customs. "If either the girl or boy is absent the marriage should be outlawed," he says.
Against the law
Fawzia Nawabi, head of Women's Development and Support in the Balkh Human Rights Commission, says both the bride and bridegroom must be present at the time of marriage. "Both should be asked if they are agreeable in order to ensure that the marriage is acceptable to both."
Women pay a high price and suffer the consequences of forced marriages. Suicide, self-immolation, divorce are some of the terrible tragedies that follow.
Forced marriage is a cultural practice in Afghanistan, says the UN children's agency, UNICEF, which has been promoting education as a critical way for girls to achieve equality. Marriages are used to settle debts or to strengthen family status through social alliances. Poor families consider a daughter as an economic burden who must be married quickly to reduce the financial strain.
With the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan many parents aim to marry their daughters at young ages to secure their futures. Girls who object to forced marriages are beaten by their parents.