In Afghanistan, 15 percent of girls are married by the age of 15, and 40 percent are married by the age of 18. Child marriage is common in Afghanistan because of the tradition of bride price, when a groom’s family pays the bride’s family for the right to marry a girl. Daughters are often exchanged in marriage to repay large debts or compensate for a crime committed against a member of the family. These unions are almost always forced marriages because the girl has no say in the matter and may not even know her husband beforehand. Poverty is a significant factor in child marriage as the parents of the daughter often have no financial resources to support her and can benefit from the dowry (or bride price).
Forced marriage has serious consequences for girls, families and communities. Once married, girls rarely receive more education because they must perform domestic duties and often soon become mothers. Without an education, they have very limited economic opportunities, reinforcing the cycle of poverty. According to a study by the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation in 2008, literacy rates correlate strongly with child marriage in Afghanistan. More than 70 percent of parents who forced their daughters to marry were illiterate, as well as 70 percent of married girls and half of their husbands. Another consequence of forced marriage is early pregnancy, which can cause many complications, including maternal death.
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