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11-year-old girl married to 40-year-old man

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11-year-old girl married to 40-year-old man

August 5th, 2012
09:58 PM ET

By Samuel Burke

Before their wedding ceremony begins in rural Afghanistan, a 40-year-old man sits to be photographed with his 11-year-old bride. The girl tells the photographer that she is sad to be engaged because she had hoped to become a teacher. Her favorite class was Dari, the local language, before she had to leave her studies to get married.

She is one of the 51 million child brides around the world today. And it's not just Muslims; it happens across many cultures and regions.

Photographer Stephanie Sinclair has traveled the world taking pictures, like the one of the Afghan couple, to document the phenomenon. Christiane Amanpour spoke with Sinclair about a book which features her photographs called, "Questions without Answers: The World in Pictures by the Photographers of VII."

Faiz, 40, and Ghulam, 11, sit in her home prior to their wedding in the rural Afghnanistan on Sept. 11, 2005.

Faiz, 40, and Ghulam, 11, sit in her home prior to their wedding in rural Afghanistan in 2005.

Amanpour asked Sinclair if the 11-year-old Afghan girl married in 2005, and others like her, consummate their marriages at such an early age. Sinclair says while many Afghans told her the men would wait until puberty, women pulled her aside to tell her that indeed the men do have sex with the prepubescent brides.

Sinclair has been working on the project for nearly a decade. She goes into the areas with help from people in these communities who want the practice to stop, because they see the harmful repercussions.

Whenever I saw him, I hid. I hated to see him," Tahani (in pink) recalls of the early days of her marriage to Majed, when she was 6 and he was 25. The young wife posed for this portrait with former classmate Ghada, also a child bride, outside their mountain home in Hajjah.

"Whenever I saw him, I hid. I hated to see him," Tehani (in pink) recalls of the early days of her marriage to Majed, when she was 6 and he was 25. The young wife posed for this portrait with former classmate Ghada, also a child bride, outside their mountain home in Yemen.

In Yemen, a similar picture. Tehani and Ghada are sisters-in-law photographed with their husbands, who are both members of the military. Like most of the girls, Tehani didn’t even know she was getting married, until the wedding night. She was six years old.

Tehani describes how she entered the marriage, “They were decorating my hands, but I didn’t know they were going to marry me off. Then my mother came in and said, ‘Come on my daughter.’ They were dressing me up and I was asking, ‘Where are you taking me?’”

Sinclair says, “This harmful, traditional practice of child marriage is just so embedded in some of these cultures that the families don't protect them as they should.”

The subjects do know they’re being photographed and Sinclair tells them the topic she is working on. She does tell them that there is teen pregnancy in places like the U.S., but for the societies she’s photographing it’s even worse that 13-year-old girls are pregnant and unmarried.

Nujoud Ali, two years after her divorce - when she was only eight years old - from her husband, more than 20 years her senior.

Nujoud Ali, two years after her divorce in Yemen – when she was only ten years old – from her husband, more than 20 years her senior.

Another one of the photographs Sinclair took is of a Yemeni girl named Nujood Ali. In a rare turn of events, Ali managed to get a divorce at age 10.

“A couple months after she was married, she went to the court and found a lawyer – a woman named Shada Nasser and asked her to help her get a divorce, and she was granted [it],” Sinclair says. “It's definitely rare and Nujood became kind of an international symbol of child marriage, because she was able to do this. And I think she's inspired a lot of other girls and other organizations to support these girls, to have a stronger voice.”

Leyualem, 14, is wisked away on a mule by her new groom and groomsmen in Ethiopia.

Leyualem, 14, is wisked away on a mule by her new groom and groomsmen in Ethiopia.

Sinclair has documented the practice outside of the Muslim world. In a Christian community in Ethiopia, she captured the image of a 14 year-old girl named Leyualem in a scene that looks like an abduction. Leyualem was whisked away on a mule with a sheet covering up her face. Sinclair asked the groomsmen why they covered her up; they said it was so she would not be able to find her way back home, if she wanted to escape the marriage.

Kaushal,10, and Rajni, 5, participate in the marriage ceremony in Northern India.

Kaushal ,10, and Rajni, 5, participate in the marriage ceremony in Northern India.

Sinclair travelled to India and Nepal, and photographed child marriages among some Hindus.

A five-year-old Hindu girl named Rajni was married under cover of night: “Literally at four o'clock in the morning. And her two older sisters were married to two other boys,” Sinclair says. “Often you see these group marriages because the girl and the families can't afford to have three weddings.” In the five-year-old girl’s case, Rajni will continue to live with her own family for several years.

Rajni, 5, was woken up around 4 am to participate in the wedding ceremony in India.

Rajni, 5, was woken up around 4 am to participate in the wedding ceremony. Here, she is carried by her uncle to her wedding in India.

Girls aren’t always the only ones forced into marriage. Sinclair wanted to photograph child marries in India and Nepal, because sometimes the boys entering a marriage are also young. “And often they're victims just as much of this harmful traditional practice,” she says.

Sinclair told Amanpour that she hopes her photographs would not only highlight the problems to westerners, but also show people in the areas where this takes place that  if the girls continue to be taken out of the population to forcibly work at home, that their communities suffer as a whole.

“It's a harmful traditional practice that is slowly changing. We just want to have it change even faster.”

Nice Widdle Puppy


by on Aug. 6, 2012 at 8:57 PM
Replies (81-90):
NWP
by guerrilla girl on Aug. 7, 2012 at 9:54 PM
2 moms liked this

We can't pass this off as "other cultures, other countries". The point of the article is that this transcends those definitions. In many of the countries where this happens, it IS illegal.

This is about the subjugation of women by extremists who do not value women as equals and fear their sexuality.

It even happens here in America today among some groups.

We should step up as humans and support helping end this through human rights organizations, not American force. No one said that... I agree completely agree with you that American should stop trying to play that roll. However, we can be a part of larger, international rights reform.

And we can also fight to maintain the rights that women have won here in this country so that we do not backslide into this being more accepted here.

Quoting JanetMonroe1991:


Quoting NWP:

These aren't "values"....This is about human rights, specifically womens rights.

Quoting JanetMonroe1991:

Not our place to police the world and inflict our "values" on other nations. 


I agree with you that it is horrible. However what I believe or what America believes isn't the issue. We don't control what other nations allow. We need to back off and let nations have their cultures unless we want to end up in an endless string of wars.  


Nice Widdle Puppy


NWP
by guerrilla girl on Aug. 7, 2012 at 9:59 PM

You make some good points about some of the reasons for this. But it does happen here in America too by religious extremists.

Quoting D.O.E.:

i'm sure it does, just like mine breaks for all the kids with druggie and alcholholic moms here on our own land. all the children being sold into sex slavery, abused and hurt. 

i think before we ( as a country) can take on another countries moral issues, we have a few of our own to deal with ourselves.

Quoting LadyBugMom09:

True. But my heart breaks for those girls. :(


Quoting D.O.E.:

we are looking at it from a western viewpoint, but try to look at it from another perspective ( i am not at all saying i think this is right, or acceptable) the majority of child brides come from very poor families, and a girl child cannot earn money and support you like a son can, a girl also requires a dowry. ( in the form of money, a goat, materials, ect)  by marrying a child off that young you not only have one less mouth to feed, but you ensure she is taken care of as well,albeit, by a much older man. it is a sad situation, but very common in some countries and cultures. 
it is considered horrible and not normal to us, but to them, this is the norm, and how we live is not normal.
it is not in our power to change the way a culture lives, that is up to that society to change as a people, and it is something they must do themselves. 

Quoting LadyBugMom09:

How can fathers do that then?? How can a father give away his little baby girl to some nasty old man? I just don't understand. It's so sad.





Quoting BigRoni:


Quoting LadyBugMom09:

I don't understand how a mother can allow this to happen to their DD. Do they have no voice at all???? :(

I would guess that the mothers don't have a voice and here's why: this type of situation more than likely happens in countries that have no such thing as women's rights. Middle and upper class girls in these countries are protected from this type of thing because no matter where you are from, no matter what the religion, sex with girls before their menstruation is frowned upon. So, more than likely you end up with a situation where poor families are victimized in this way.







Nice Widdle Puppy


JanetMonroe1991
by Bronze Member on Aug. 7, 2012 at 9:59 PM


Quoting NWP:

We can't pass this off as "other cultures, other countries". The point of the article is that this transcends those definitions. In many of the countries where this happens, it IS illegal.

This is about the subjugation of women by extremists who do not value women as equals and fear their sexuality.

It even happens here in America today among some groups.

We should step up as humans and support helping end this through human rights organizations, not American force. No one said that... I agree completely agree with you that American should stop trying to play that roll. However, we can be a part of larger, international rights reform.

And we can also fight to maintain the rights that women have won here in this country so that we do not backslide into this being more accepted here.

Quoting JanetMonroe1991:


Quoting NWP:

These aren't "values"....This is about human rights, specifically womens rights.

Quoting JanetMonroe1991:

Not our place to police the world and inflict our "values" on other nations. 


I agree with you that it is horrible. However what I believe or what America believes isn't the issue. We don't control what other nations allow. We need to back off and let nations have their cultures unless we want to end up in an endless string of wars.  


So are you willing to personally get a gun and go overseas and go into these nations and tell them they have to change their laws? And then are you willing to stay there and deal with what those changes bring? Things like people trying to blow you up and shoot you?  That is what it comes down to...we would have to force these changes on other nations which would just cause more hate for the American way of life which equals more wars. My brother is a Marine, hes been in warzones, he has told me stories and he says he doesn't believe its worth it. 


catchup29
by on Aug. 7, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Quoting NWP:




I'm from West Virginia. A lot of my older family members married at 13-14 years old.
WildCat73
by on Aug. 7, 2012 at 10:01 PM

Totally agree i think it is sick

Quoting yourspecialkid:

 Oh wow!  I know this is a cultural practice in many places around the world...I just can't see it as anything but legalized child molestation.  Those poor children.


catchup29
by on Aug. 7, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Quoting NWP:




I'm from West Virginia. A lot of my older family members married at 13-14 years old. But not because they were forced to.
NWP
by guerrilla girl on Aug. 7, 2012 at 10:02 PM

I can understand what you are saying, but the article goes deeper than this.

Quoting ButterMeUp:

Part of me feels disgusted and part of me gets angry at those who judge this poor family. The parent in me thinks it's absolutely disgusting to marry off a child, however rationally I realize it's "okay" if the marriage was consensual. In America we raise children to be children. To be carefree little ones who don't need to worry about adult like at 11. However if you're in a culture where everyone around you gets married at 10 and 11, your mindset is completely different. Maybe she is honestly prepared and ready to be a wife and future mother. I don't think it's fair to try and compare her way of life style to ours. 


Nice Widdle Puppy


godsgirl26
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Finally home with my family and im loving it. Until i have to get ready to go back to my mom's to take care of her im ENJOYING myself ♥
Yesterday at 12:18 PM
by on Aug. 7, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Poor little girls are forced to get married at such a young age. Ughhh it breaks my heart.
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NWP
by guerrilla girl on Aug. 7, 2012 at 10:12 PM

I don't know where you are coming from with this. NO one is saying to go in with guns blazing. Who said that?

We need to support international human rights groups that support womens and girls education in other countries where it is most often not allowed or the norm. 

And fight to maintain our rights as women here in the US.

Little by little, this IS making a difference...without running in guns a blazin'...Let me give just a couple of examples:

1. The photography book that is discussed in the article. It sheds light on the fact that this is NOT just one particular culture or religion, but a larger problem that needs to be addressed.

2. International media: it has already reached into many of these areas and helped bring attention, and local assistance to some of these girls who did not want to be married to older men. One example was given in the article.

3. The international community just....not....putting...up...with it. Just this past week, several countries brought female athletes to the Olympics who would not have in the past because the international group that runs them decided to not allow any countries who did not send women to participate. Therefore, if a country wanted to compete, they HAD to send women athletes.  What does that do? It opens a door, just a little, to women in these areas to understand that they can be more and that they do matter. They are now role models for others.

First, we must acknowledge there is a problem here. Next, we must decide what should and what can be done.

Education is the key, NOT guns or violence.

Quoting JanetMonroe1991:


Quoting NWP:

We can't pass this off as "other cultures, other countries". The point of the article is that this transcends those definitions. In many of the countries where this happens, it IS illegal.

This is about the subjugation of women by extremists who do not value women as equals and fear their sexuality.

It even happens here in America today among some groups.

We should step up as humans and support helping end this through human rights organizations, not American force. No one said that... I agree completely agree with you that American should stop trying to play that roll. However, we can be a part of larger, international rights reform.

And we can also fight to maintain the rights that women have won here in this country so that we do not backslide into this being more accepted here.

Quoting JanetMonroe1991:


Quoting NWP:

These aren't "values"....This is about human rights, specifically womens rights.

Quoting JanetMonroe1991:

Not our place to police the world and inflict our "values" on other nations. 


I agree with you that it is horrible. However what I believe or what America believes isn't the issue. We don't control what other nations allow. We need to back off and let nations have their cultures unless we want to end up in an endless string of wars.  


So are you willing to personally get a gun and go overseas and go into these nations and tell them they have to change their laws? And then are you willing to stay there and deal with what those changes bring? Things like people trying to blow you up and shoot you?  That is what it comes down to...we would have to force these changes on other nations which would just cause more hate for the American way of life which equals more wars. My brother is a Marine, hes been in warzones, he has told me stories and he says he doesn't believe its worth it. 



Nice Widdle Puppy


areid1023
by Silver Member on Aug. 7, 2012 at 10:14 PM

i read this article a while back.

its really tragic that anyone feels that this is the best thing they can do for their child. 

the problem isnt these child brides (although it IS a problem). the problem is, as the author realized and spoke about, the culture. and not THIS culture. a global culture. where women are valued less than men. where the poor have very few options other than leaving behind a legacy that perpetuates poorness. 

in a lot of the countries where this act is still somewhat 'common' it is also illegal (it is illegal in the US and gets looked over everyday, btw). however, since gov't only made the act illegal instead of also altering the culture that devalued women so vastly, the desperate and needy are left with very few choices for their beloved female children other than continuing the practice.

tragic. wrong. all around horrific. valuing a human being is the place to start. truly valuing a human being. 

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