Disguised in boys’ clothes, 13-year-old Khadija Rasoul and 14-year-old Basgol Sakhi fled their local village to escape their illegal, forced marriages to much older men. After two days navigating rutted roads and mountain passes in central Afghanistan, they finally reached the relatively liberal Herat Province.
But unexpectedly, the police officer spotted them as girls-- and ignoring their pleas, promptly sent them back to their remote village in Ghor Province. There they were publicly and viciously flogged for daring to run away from their husbands. Their tormentors, who videotaped the abuse, were not the Taliban, but local mullahs and the former warlord, now a pro-government figure who largely rules the district where the girls live.
Neither girl flinched visibly at the beatings, and afterward both walked away with their heads unbowed. Sympathizers of the victims smuggled out two video recordings of the floggings to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, which released them after unsuccessfully lobbying for government action.
The ordeal of Afghanistan’s child brides illustrates an uncomfortable truth. What in most countries would be considered a criminal offense is in many parts of Afghanistan a cultural norm, one which the government has been either unable or unwilling to challenge effectively.
According to a Unicef study, from 2000 to 2008, the brides in 43 percent of Afghan marriages were under 18. Although the Afghan Constitution forbids the marriage of girls under the age of 16, tribal customs often condone marriage once puberty is reached, or even earlier. Flogging is also illegal. Read more about it here.