Child marriage by 15
Child marriage by 18
|Are there Girls Not Brides members?||8|
|Does this country have a national strategy or plan?||Yes|
|Is there a Girls Not Brides National Partnership or coalition?||No|
|Age of marriage without consent or exceptions taken into account||No data available|
What's the prevalence rate?
7% of Afghan boys are married before the age of 18.
The lowest median age at first marriage (age by which half of respondents have been married) is in Nimroz at 15.9 years.
Regionally, in a 2018 study of one of Afghanistan´s five major cities, it was found that there was no significant variation in the child marriage prevalence in urban, semi-rural and rural parts of Afghanistan. However, between the different provinces there were significant disparities in reporting child marriage. The highest rates were found in Paktia (66%) and Badghis (55%), Kandahar 45%, Bamyan 31% and Ghor 21%.
What drives child marriage in Afghanistan?
Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys.
The impacts of child marriage are interconnected to issues such as low educational enrolment, attainment and poor health. However, very limited research and information exists on the economic impacts of child marriage in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, there are several drivers of child marriage including:
Gender inequality: Perceptions around gender and gender roles are strongly influenced by culture and tradition. This influences how women and girls are valued and treated. Gender inequality restricts girls' agency and strips them of the power to make their own decisions such as whom and when they can marry. Traditionally, girls are viewed as a great source of economic value and domestic labour for their future household.
Level of education: As of 2018, there are less girls enrolled in full-time education than boys. The main reasons for this are physical accessibility to schools, community illiteracy, poverty, and lack of knowledge on Sharia and national laws. Government data indicates that girls who have not completed their education are three times more likely to marry before the age of 18 than girls who have completed secondary education or higher.
Harmful practices: Harmful traditional practices are frequently economically driven. There is a transactional view of marriage, involving the exchange of money and goods. Girls are seen as part of this transaction, for example, as a potential source of domestic labour. Child marriage is sometimes used to strengthen ties between rival families and settle disputes – a practice known as baad. Girls have little say in this and often face serious physical and emotional abuse. When they try to escape, they are sometimes arrested for zina (running away) which is seen as a moral crime. Baadl is the exchange of daughters in marriage between families, either before birth or as young as two.
Traditional and societal attitudes: Social norms as well as tribal codes in Afghanistan indicate what is socially appropriate and acceptable. These norms are powerful in swaying a community in influencing their attitudes towards child marriage and gender inequality. Traditionally, Afghanistan has a patriarchal society and child marriage is considered an internal family matter that is dictated by religious and cultural code Religious leaders such as mullahs and imams play a significant role in shaping community perceptions on child marriage as they are trusted members of the community and play a key role in performing the marriages. A 2017 Human Rights Watch report showed that when a girl is married off, her sister often has to take on her household duties and consequently drops out of school and becomes vulnerable to child marriage. Even the anticipation of marriage forces some girls to leave school.
Weak legal frameworks: In Afghanistan, there are inconsistencies between international laws and religious laws. The legal age of marriage in international law is not valid or accepted by religious codes; rather puberty and adolescence are the key determinants for marriage. It is believed by religious leaders that early marriage is essential in order to prevent pre-marital sex and other immoral practices, particularly for girls. These inconsistencies mean that marriage registration levels remain low, making it difficult to track child marriage rates nationally. The prevalence of parallel legal systems imposed by tribal, family and religious communities limits the ability to enforce frameworks around child marriage.
Adolescent pregnancy: In Afghanistan, the majority of adolescent childbearing occurs within marriage. While childbearing can occur right after the marriage, girls may be married off to avoid the social stigma of pre-marital sex and childbirth out of wedlock.
Poverty: The perceived transactional nature of child marriage, and its expected economic benefits, influence families. Economic benefits are a way of understanding social norms and tribal codes, such as the practice of baadal (exchange of girls between families combined with paying bride price). Families living in poverty will often marry their daughters early in order to reduce the cost of living.
COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the vulnerability of children and particularly adolescent girls which has led to an increase in financial difficulties. In a 2021 study, it was found that since the pandemic, 48% of Afghan families lost their source of income and 50% were unable to access food.
Humanitarian settings can encompass a wide range of situations before, during, and after natural disasters, conflicts, and epidemics. They exacerbate poverty, insecurity, and lack of access to services such as education, factors which all drive child marriage. While gender inequality is a root cause of child marriage in both stable and crisis context, often in times of crisis families see child marriage as a way to cope with greater economic hardship and to protect girls from increased violence.
Afghanistan has been in conflict for almost 35 years and the overall security situation remains tense across the country. Since January 2021, 4.2 million people have been displaced and 18 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Persisting political insecurity, the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 spring drought and increased violence has further deteriorated the humanitarian crisis and has left 12.5 million people food insecure. Following the Taliban´s forced takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, there are growing concerns that their rule will have a detrimental impact on women and girls. without strict monitoring, girls may be denied access to education, increasing their vulnerability to forced child marriage.
Displacement: For internally displaced families, child marriage can be perceived as a survival tactic. For example, a 2015 Norwegian Refugee Council study showed that internally displaced girls are often married off to older men who are able to pay dowry and support them during times of food insecurity.
Returnees: Many refugee girls returning to Afghanistan are reportedly at risk of child marriage as they do not have access to education and are not eligible for aid from UN agencies. Families resort to arranging an early marriage for daughters as a perceived survival tactic.
What international, regional and national commitments has Afghanistan made?
Afghanistan has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. During its Voluntary National Review at the 2017 High Level Political Forum, the government highlighted that it is working to reduce the number of girls who marry before the legal age to 10% by 2030. The government submitted a 202 1 Voluntary National Review at the High Level Political Forum but there was no mention of child marriage.
Afghanistan co-sponsored the 2013 and 2014 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage. Afghanistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18.
In 1948, Afghanistan voted in favour of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , that addresses issues of child marriage and calls on States to take legal action. Afghanistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18.
Afghanistan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 2003, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage. In 2005, Afghanistan endorsed the UN Human Rights Council Annual Report on Preventing and Eliminating Child Early and Forced Marriage
In 2011, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concerns about the inconsistencies between civil law, Sharia and customary laws as to the legal minimum age for marriage, and the absence of effective measures to prevent and eliminate early and forced marriages. In 2019, the Committee requested further information on the legal and policy developments to address child marriage in Afghanistan.
In 2013 the CEDAW Committee raised concerns about the persistence of adverse practices harmful to women, including child marriage. In 2019, the CEDAW Committee requested further information on the implementation of policies and programmes to end harmful practices including child marriage.
During its 2014 Universal Periodic Review , Afghanistan supported recommendations to revise legislation to ensure that legal ages of marriage in the Civil Law and in Sharia regulations are in line with international standards. During its 2019 Universal Periodic Review, Afghanistan supported recommendations to take steps to end early and child marriage by implementing a national plan on child marriage and developing awareness raising programmes to end harmful traditional practices.
Afghanistan is a member of the South Asian Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) which adopted a Regional Action Plan to End Child Marriage and raise the minimum legal age to 18 for all South Asian countries by 2018.
Representatives of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), including Afghanistan committed to the Kathmandu Call to Action to End Child Marriage in Asia in 2014. As part of its commitment, Afghanistan will ensure access to legal remedies for child brides and establish a uniform minimum legal age of marriage of 18.
Afghanistan is a partner country of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
What is the government doing to address child marriage?
Since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, women and girls particularly in Afghanistan’s western city, Herat, are at risk of serious human rights violations. Women and girls are required to follow a compulsory dress code, restricted from working, accessing education and banned from leaving the house without a mahram (male family member who serves as a chaperone).
In the 2020 CEDAW concluding observation of Afghanistan, the Committee noted concern about the fact that between 2017-2021 there is very limited publicly accessible information regarding child marriage or information about the national action plan to eliminate child marriage.
On 19 April 2017, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ministry of Information and Culture launched a National Action Plan To Eliminate Early and Child Marriage. The plan was developed in partnership with UNFPA Afghanistan and followed several consultations with the international community. As reported by UNICEF, these policies and legislation have yet to have a strong impact. One of the proposed solutions of this national action plan was to increase the registrations of births and marriages in order for the government to accurately track underage marriages.
Nationally, the Afghan government has made efforts in trying to resolve the problem of child marriage at a policy level by approving the anti-harassment against women and children legislation. This legislation demonstrates a positive move towards addressing violence and harassment against women and girls.
Afghanistan have also received support from UNICEF to ensure universal civil registration by 2024, including birth registration as a sustainable intervention to combat child marriage.
As reported to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2019, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), mandated to protect and promote human rights situations across Afghanistan, has held a nation-wide training course for its child rights staff in Kabul. In this training course, employees studied vulnerable children and legal support, the prevention of child marriage and how to support children during armed conflicts.
The Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) legislation, which seeks to address sexual harassment and gender-based violence, including child marriage and other harmful practices, was signed by the then-president in 2009. However, according to a 2018 UN report, violence against women and girls is still largely ignored by the Afghan criminal justice system.
Pre-2009 the Afghan government enacted and enforced a series of legislative and strategic policies to provide a framework countering violence against women, including child marriage. These include:
Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (Articles 9, 10, 11 and 12) 2009
What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?
Under national laws, boys and girls are treated differently. According to Article 70 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Afghanistan 1977 and Article 99(1) of the Shiite Personal Status Law, the legal marriageable age is 16 for girls and 18 for boys. When a girl is below the age of 16, a marriage can be concluded with the permission of her father or a judge. This law is applicable to both Sunnis and Shias.
Matters regarding marriage in Afghanistan for the Muslim population are governed differently for the Sunni majority and Shia minority. For the Sunni majority, Article 1(2) of the Civil Code governs matters relating to marriage; for the Shia minority, Article 2(3) of the Shiite Personal Status Law governs matters relating to marriage. Sharia law and customary law overlap.
Within both religious sects, marriage below the minimum legal age is permissible.
For Sunnis, under Article 71(1) of the Civil Code, a competent father or judge may permit a girl under the age of 16 to get married. However, Article 71(2) strictly prohibits marriage below the age of 15.
For Shias, under Article 99(2) and 99(3) of the Shiite Personal Status Law, a parent or guardian appearing before a court may permit girls and boys below the age of 16 and 18, if it is considered to be in their best interests. SPSL does not stipulate an absolute minimum age in which marriage may not be authorised.
Under Article 71 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Afghanistan 1977, the marriage of a girl under 15 is not permitted, however religious and customary laws have been found to contradict and take precedence over civil law. There is no data available as to the minimum legal age of marriage in Afghanistan once all exceptions have been considered.
A draft Family Protection Law is currently under review in which the marriage age for both girls and boys would be equal at 18.
3 Ways You Can Support Girls and Women in Afghanistan
Girls Not Brides calls for solidarity with girls and women in Afghanistan
Child Marriage in Afghanistan: Changing the narrative
This report explores the drivers of child marriage in Afghanistan and provides recommandations on how to address these.
I won’t be a doctor, and one day you’ll be sick. Girls' education in Afghanistan
The report highlights the barriers girls face to getting an education, including: - Lack of infrastructure - Social norms - Child marriage - A worsening security situation
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