An Afghan father was arrested Friday after allegedly selling his 6-year-old daughter to a 55-year-old village imam in exchange for a goat.
The father justified his actions to The Observer, saying he could not afford to feed his family and now had the added benefit of one less mouth to feed. The father also claimed he had secured a promise from the imam that he would not have sex with the girl until she turned 18.
The imam was reported to authorities after a relative of his became suspicious of the arrangement. The imam took the young girl with him to another village, where he told his relatives the girl was his daughter. His relatives doubted the story when they noticed the imam undressing her at night. Both the imam and father were arrested by authorities the next day.
The head of the Women’s Rights Bureau in Ghor Province told France’s 24 News the situation remains complicated. While the marriage is illegal under Afghan law, she was married in an Islamic religious ceremony, which requires a divorce granted by another Muslim imam. Divorce is taboo in Afghan culture, and the Women’s Rights Bureau staffer was skeptical she would be able to find an imam willing to rebuke the marriage.
Such incidents have become relatively commonplace in Afghanistan. A 61-year-old Muslim cleric was arrested Sunday after kidnapping and marrying a six-year-old girl. The cleric told authorities the girl was a “religious offering” to him. On June 18, a pregnant Afghan girl in the remote Ghor province was set on fire by her husband’s family after they stabbed and tortured her for refusing to work in the opium fields.
The United Nations Population Fund estimates 46.4 percent of marriages take place in Afghanistan before a woman reaches the age of 18. Researchers believe the actual number is much higher than the official percentage, as many in rural areas do not register their marriage with the government.
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