In a culture that relegates women to a status of being possessions of men, it’s not at all surprising to see them traded as such. By Alisa Tang for the Associated Press:
JALALABAD, Afghanistan – Unable to scrounge together the $165 he needed to
repay a loan to buy sheep, Nazir Ahmad made good on his debt by selling his 16-year-old
daughter to marry the lender’s son.
“He gave me nine sheep,” Ahmad said, describing his family’s woes since taking
the loan. “Because of nine sheep, I gave away my daughter.”
Seated beside him in the cramped compound, his daughter Malia’s eyes filled
with tears. She used a black scarf to wipe them away.
Despite advances in women’s rights and at least one tribe’s move to outlaw the
practice, girls are traded like currency in Afghanistan and forced marriages are common. Antiquated tribal laws authorize the practice known as “bad” in the Afghan language Dari “”
and girls are used to settle disputes ranging from debts to murder.
Diyya, or blood money, as compensation offered as an alternative to exact retribution (qisas, i.e., “an eye for an eye”) is enshrined in Islamic law. Where cash is short or non-existent, economies revert to bartering.
Such exchanges bypass the hefty bride price of a traditional betrothal, which can cost upward of $1,000. Roughly two out of five Afghan marriages are forced, says the country’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
“It’s really sad to do this in this day and age, exchange women,” said Manizha
Naderi, the director of the aid organization Women for Afghan Women. “They’re treated as
Though violence against women remains widespread, Afghanistan has taken
significant strides in women’s rights since the hard-line Taliban years, when women were
virtual prisoners “” banned from work, school or leaving home unaccompanied by a male
relative. Millions of girls now attend school and women fill jobs in government and
There are also signs of change for the better inside the largest tribe in eastern Afghanistan “” the deeply conservative Shinwaris.
Shinwari elders from several districts signed a resolution this year outlawing
several practices that harm girls and women. These included a ban on using girls to settle so-called blood feuds “” when a man commits murder, he must hand over his daughter or sister
as a bride for a man in the victim’s family. The marriage ostensibly “mixes blood to end
the bloodshed.” Otherwise, revenge killings often continue between the families for
Jan Shinwari, a businessman and provincial council member, said a BBC radio
report by a female journalist from the Shinwari tribe, Malalai Shinwari, had exposed the trade of girls and shamed the elders into passing the resolution to end the practice.
“I did this work not because of human rights, but for Afghan women, for
Afghan girls not to be exchanged for stupid things,” Jan Shinwari said. “When Malalai Shinwari reported this story about exchanging girls for animals, when I heard this BBC report, I said, ‘Let’s make a change.'”
Now a lawmaker in Parliament, Malalai Shinwari said her report had the impact
she intended. She called the changes to tribal laws a “big victory for me.”
About 600 elders from the Shinwar district put their purple thumbprint “signatures” on the handwritten resolution.
More than 20 Shinwari leaders gathered in the eastern city of Jalalabad, nodding earnestly and muttering their consent as the changes were discussed last
They insisted that women given away for such marriages “” including those to
settle blood feuds “” were treated well in their new families. But the elders declined requests to meet any of the women or their families.
“Nobody treats them badly,” Malik Niaz said confidently, stroking his long
white beard. “Everyone respects women.”
But Afghan women say this could not be further from the truth.
“By establishing a family relationship, we want to bring peace. But in reality, that is not the case,” said Hangama Anwari, an independent human rights commissioner and
founder of the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation.
Read it all.