AFGHANISTAN. Herat: While the rest of the world suffers from the health and economic sides of COVID-19, Afghanistan has seen a significant reduction in child marriages.
Due to economical struggles, the Afghan families from rural areas are forced to marry their daughters to older men. The decision is taken so that the girl’s family can get financial assistance from the groom’s family. Fortunately, this year the number of child marriages is low when compared to previous years.
According to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA), the rate of under-age marriages and forced-marriages has dropped down over the last year in West Afghanistan. The department has also said that the number of child marriages has declined due to COVID-19 and security reasons.
Fewer data records of marriages due to COVID-19
As per the report by the MOWA, the numbers have reduced because of COVID-19 restrictions which have severely hindered the reporting of child marriages in certain areas.
According to them, the real number of cases of violence against women and reduction in child marriages is even higher than the record numbers.
Shima Mohammadi, Director of the Women’s Affairs Department in western Nimroz province said that only 10 cases of child marriages and 6 forced marriages were recorded in the department over the last year.
“COVID-19, security reasons, and people’s lack of awareness helped this number to stay down,” she said.
On the contrary, The Women’s Affairs Department in western Farah province of Afghanistan believes that the real numbers are higher than the reported numbers.
“The security threats and COVID-19 prevented many women not to report this office about the violence against them, ” Azita Farah, manager of Farah’s Women’s Affairs Department said.
“We had three cases of forced marriages and four cases of under-age marriages,” she added.
Cultural poverty and extremism
Sohaila Sabri, manager of public communications at Herat Women’s Affairs said that last year they had recorded around nine cases of forced marriages. However, this year around 13 cases were recorded. Along with this, child marriages have also seen a slight increase.
She said extremism and cultural poverty, besides low economic, are the major factors that led to the child and forced marriages.
While talking to Transcontinental Times, Herat Women’s Department said that they are going to launch informative sessions for women in the province to report on their marriage issues.
Fatema Rezayee, a women’s activist in Herat said that the traditional view toward women and gender discrimination forced some women to marry without their satisfaction. “We still don’t have any knowledge about women’s right, how can we fight the violence against women?”