An 18-year-old woman from Afghanistan is trying to divorce her 60-year-old husband after being forced to marry him at age 12.
The woman, identified only as Samargul, accuses the older man, Mullah Faiz Mohammad, of abusing her, stating she has been beaten and tortured for years, TOLO News reports.
"I was ignorant, I didn't know what was good, or what was bad, but now I want a divorce," said Samargul.
Samargul’s family made her marry Mohammad after Samargul’s brother had an affair with the man’s daughter from one of his previous two marriages.
Marrying off a daughter is a common way to solve disputes in Afghanistan, The Guardian reports.
Although the international community has tried to strengthen the country’s formal justice system, and enforce the legal minimum age of 16 for girls, Afghans turn to traditional forms of mediation, rather than the formal court system, notes The Guardian. This is more common outside the large cities, where people rely on religious tradition and agreements made by village councils and elders, rather than the court system, which is seen as corrupt and unprofessional.
Mohammad denies his wife’s claims, refuses to divorce her, and accuses her of having an affair.
"It has been six years since we married. She [Samargul] was with me and we didn't have any problems," said Mohammad.
Samargul is likely not alone. A UNICEF study reports at least 1 in 4 women worldwide ages 20 to 24 have been victims of child marriage.
“Many factors interact to place a girl at risk of marriage, including poverty, the perception that marriage will provide 'protection,' family honour, social norms, customary or religious laws that condone the practice, an inadequate legislative framework and the state of a country's civil registration system,” UNICEF writes.
“Child marriage often compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement and placing her at increased risk of domestic violence. Child marriage also affects boys, but to a lesser degree than girls.”