According to the joint study by UNICEF and the labour ministry in both urban and rural areas of five of the 34 Afghan provinces, 42 per cent of families have at least one member who was married before the age of 18, although the figure varies widely from region to region.
“This study is unique, it not only builds on previous studies, but looks at child marriage in Afghanistan from various angles, providing hence a comprehensive picture of this practice,” Minister of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled Faizullah Zaki said.
The report findings showed that the security situation, poverty, deeply embedded beliefs and social norms put Afghan girls at a disadvantage.
“Child marriage is slightly declining in Afghanistan, and we commend the relentless efforts of the Government to reduce this practice and their strong commitment to child rights,” Adele Khodr, UNICEF representative in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
“Yet, further consolidated action is needed by the different actors in society to put an end to this practice and reach the goal of ending child marriage by 2030,” Khodr added.
“The study was carried out in five provinces of Afghanistan – Bamyan, Kandahar, Paktia, Ghor and Badghis representing urban, semi-urban and rural areas. Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, the study highlights multiple factors behind child marriage, complementing already existing studies,” according to the statement.
The report noted that in 78 percent of families, fathers are the main decision makers on issues related to marriage, while 55.7 percent of respondents agreed that those to be married must be consulted.
Child marriage in Afghanistan is so common that over 30 percent of all girls are married before the age of 18.
This disturbing figure bears more than a cursory glance. Aside from causing immense emotional and physical duress for child brides, the practice also massively hinders the girls’ ability to access education.
The phenomenon of child marriage in Afghanistan is not unique to the country, nor even to South Asia.