At age 11, Ghulam was married off to 40-year-old Jaiz in a rural Afghan village, making her only one of more than 10 million young girls who are being forced to wed men old enough to be their fathers or grandfather every year.
In an effort to start a global conversation about the devastating effects of early marriages, which are currently practised in more than 50 developing countries, the United Nations designated October 11 as International Day of the Girl Child this year.
To mark the occasion and draw attention to the problem of child brides, photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair teamed up with National Geographic to create a series of heart-breaking photos depicting girls as young as five years old being married off to middle-aged men in countries like India, Yemen and Ethiopia.
Although child marriage is against the law in many countries, and international treaties forbid the practice, it is estimates that about 51 million girls below age 18 are currently married, often under the cover of darkness and in secret. In Afghanistan alone, it is believed that approximately 57 per cent of girls wed before the legal age of 16.
Various factors drive parents of child brides to marry off their daughters, from the community’s pressure to conform to age-old cultural customs to economic considerations. In poor, developing nations, it is not uncommon for families to settle debts by offering their daughters as payment.
Beside India, where girls are usually wed to boys who are only a couple of years their senior, the husbands may be decades older than their prepubescent betrothed. It is not uncommon for men to kidnap girls and rape them first before tying the knot.
Since 2003, Sinclair has been travelling to remote corners of the world in countries like Nepal and Yemen to document weddings of child brides and their transformation into young mothers in the hope of giving them a voice and raising awareness of the problem.
Experts agree that early marriage denies the girls education and robs them of their childhood because most young wives, burdened by grownup responsibilities, do not get a chance to interact with their peers or carry on friendships outside the household.
In many cases, the girls are lorded over by their husbands and in-laws, leaving them vulnerable to domestic violence as well as physical, sexual and verbal abuse.
Underage wives who are lucky enough to escape from their husbands end up living in poverty, or worse. Some girls turn to prostitution to earn a meager income and enter brothels, where they are subjected to horrific abuse.
Most girls who enter early marriages are expected to get pregnant right away, which often leads to tragedy for both the mothers, who are still children themselves, and their babies.
Adolescent wives are more likely to have obstructed labour because their bodies have not fully developed. Statistics show pregnancy death for child brides is double that of women in the 20s, according to the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. .
This is nothing but pedophilia by grown men to seduce young girls, Children really. This is unfortunately condoned in Islamic countries very much.
Lokka Monday, 15 October 2012 03:16 AM
This is child rape in the guise of child marriage. What a shame. Which religion can allow this with a conscience. I know this happens in many Arab countries. For them women are concubines and chattel.
Matalan Monday, 15 October 2012 08:02 AM
Violence on children, women or animals at the pretext of upholding 'centuries' of custom is nothing but a flimsy ploy to satisfy egoistic, sadistic cravings.
Ex Muslim Monday, 15 October 2012 03:38 AM
Prophet Muhammed himself in fifties married when Aisha was six years old and consummated when she was nine.
Ex Muslim Monday, 15 October 2012 08:24 AM
both are evil in their own count, two wrongs won't make one right
PPL Monday, 15 October 2012 09:03 AM
But the brotherhood is for this! bloody shame!
Renuka Monday, 15 October 2012 04:22 AM
Poverty , uneducated .....America just messed that country up...worst to happen...and still more signs to come...in one way it's better than that girl becoming a prostitute like in the western world....
Rajan Monday, 15 October 2012 04:52 AM
Its A crime to marry little girls as there just kids and have to live a life as kids and play around which forced denied by these perverts what do they gain by getting married to these children
Rizvi Monday, 15 October 2012 05:39 AM
You are an ignorant, so you named you Ex Muslim as well...nice try many ignorant perhaps believe you.
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