I came across this photo a little late, but since it is Ghor related I thought I’d mention it. It’s by an American photographer, Stephanie Sinclair, and won UNICEF’s Photo of the Year 2007 competition. It shows a forty year old Afghan man sat next to his eleven year old fiancé
From the official caption:
He’s forty, she’s eleven. And they are a couple – the Afghan man Mohammed F.* and the child Ghulam H.*. “We needed the money”, Ghulam’s parents said. Faiz claims he is going to send her to school. But the women of Damarda village in Afghanistan’s Ghor province know better: “Our men don’t want educated women.” They predict that Ghulam will be married within a few weeks after her engagement in 2006, so as to bear children for Faiz.
A colleague in a district of Ghor married a thirteen year old girl when he was in his mid-thirties. Now she’s eighteen, has a two year old kid and also works for our organisation. She’s had some schooling – probably as much as is available in that area, which ain’t much – and is functionally literate. He looks a lot more friendly than the guy in the photo above but that’s by the by.
Talking about it with his male colleagues one evening, they were firmly of the impression that such practices were khub nest – not good, though I expect they would never say as much in front of him.
Searching quickly through various articles and blogs discussing this photo there is understandable disgust and sorrow, at times though this is directed at Afghanistan’s ‘barbaric traditions’. I’d just say the clue is in the caption: money, or a lack of it. Extreme poverty forces people to sell whatever they have, even a child. That is in no way trying to justify it, just to suggest that it’s not a ‘cultural’ thing. It’s not uncommon to sell off a young daughter in Afghanistan but that doesn’t mean all Afghans agree with the practice.