Over 90% of the world's opiates, used to make heroin or opium, originate in Afghanistan and have been grown there for several decades. Recently, the government, pressured by the US and its "War on Drugs", has begun eradication efforts. The efforts focus on slowing the drug trade by destroying individual farmers' crops, burning their fields, which are often their only source of income. When these fields are burned, farmers go into debt and are forced to borrow money impossible to repay with the income of their "replacement" crops such as wheat (These crops generate very little revenue). So, how are these debts repaid?
With Child Brides.
When a child is sold to a husband, her family receives a very significant dowry, oftentimes upward of $1500, a huge sum in the poverty-stricken nation, which they in turn use to pay off debts or as a source of income.
These girls are anywhere between 8 and 16 years old, marrying men 5 to 10 times their age. In one case, a two month old infant was promised to a 55 year old man when she comes of age (which is 15). Many of these girls, as young as 11, have committed suicide in order to escape a life of abuse, assault, and rape.
But, this practice must be illegal? No. "So Shah took his case before a tribal council in Laghman and begged for leniency [from a man trying to collect on a debt]. Instead, the elders unanimously ruled that Shah would have to reimburse the trafficker by giving Khalida to him in marriage." It is a court-ordered "solution" to debt repayment.
Well, at least its rare? No. "In the two districts she [reporter, Angiza Afridi] studied, approximately half of new brides had been given in marriage to repay opium debts."
"Khalida [a nine year old child, soon to be a bride] wanted to be a teacher someday, but that has become impossible. "It's my fate," the child says."
I know that this practice is happening a world away, but it cannot be ignored. A nine year old in this, our world cannot believe her fate is to marry a man several times her age for money. Action must be taken. And this is my call to you.