It is sad but true, Afghan women are committing suicide to escape marriages that they don’t wish to enter into. A staggering 80% of marriages that take place in Afghanistan are without the consent of the bride. A girl is normally married off at a very young age, often a child bride, married off to a man much older. She has no say in the decision, and it is her father who has the final word in it. Some times the marriages happen because the groom is rich even though he is much older and has previous wives. Sometimes, these girls are engaged when they are as young as 8 to 9 years.
Bright dreams of studying and pursuing professions are mercilessly crushed when at 16 or 17 years of age, girls are forced to get married to grooms chosen by their parents. Even with 11 years of NATO forces on the ground that has brought about some hope for women in terms of support to education and business, things are far from rosy for women. The orthodox society still considers marriage at a young age suitable for a woman. Often the decision is taken by the elders in the family including the father. A girl against her wishes is supposed to honor that wish. Abuse of women in marriages are very common despite a recent Domestic Violence Act. Due to the conservative nature of society and lack of a support system, most women languish in horrible, abusive marriages but do not approach the courts out of fear. They are also financially dependent upon their husband.
Women’s education in Afghanistan is still at very low levels. And the participation of women in workplaces as well as in government stays dismal. A UN report points out that violence against women has gone up by 20% in the last year. Most of the women are killed while working in the fields or while working at home. They are being deliberately targeted and threatened by the Taliban of late. There are fears of greater violence after the departure of NATO troops in end 2014.
Afghan women are fighting for equality and empowerment. Change is very slow and only the coming years will reveal how women’s lives pan out in Afghanistan.
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