Sunday, March 30, 2008

Degradation of Women

Sorry to blog on this morose topic, but I came across this article about Afghan farmers needing to sell off their daughters to repay loans. It is amazing to me that we can have a woman being a strongly viable candidate in the U.S., while 14 hours away (by jet), woman are being treated like livestock.

Read this excerpt to get an idea:

Six months ago he gave the hand of his 13-year-old daughter, Bibi Gula, to settle an opium debt of $700, with roughly $1,500 cash thrown in. That's what they're living on now. At least his creditor agreed to let Gula stay home until she turns 15. "I'm not happy with what I did," Khan says. "Every daughter has ambitions to marry with dignity. I fear she'll be treated as a second-class wife and as a maid."

Angiza Afridi, 28, has spent much of the past year interviewing more than 100 families about opium weddings in two of Nangarhar's 22 districts. The schoolteacher and local TV reporter already had firsthand knowledge of the tragedy. Five years ago one of her younger aunts, then 16, was forced to marry a 55-year-old man to pay off an older uncle's opium debt, and three years ago an 8-year-old cousin was also given in marriage to make good on a drug loan. "This practice of marrying daughters to cover debts is becoming a bad habit," says Afridi.

Even so, the results of her survey shocked her. In the two districts she studied, approximately half the new brides had been given in marriage to repay opium debts. The new brides included children as young as 5 years old; until they're old enough to consummate their marriages, they mostly work as household servants for their in-laws. "These poor girls have no future," she says. The worst of it may be the suicides. Afridi learned of one 15-year-old opium bride who poisoned herself on her wedding day late last year and an 11-year-old who took a fatal dose of opium around the same time. Her new in-laws were refusing to let her visit her parents.

I don't know how these parents can treat their own daughters this way. Don't they have any shame? Are they really that desperate? I know I'm used to the Mediterranean culture where parents sacrifice for their kids, and always compromise their own financial needs for the well-being of their children, so I have little perspective on this type of behavior. Is it really financial desperation or just a general disrespect of women in the culture? Certainly, in "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini (author of the bestseller the "Kite Runner"), women were not exactly treated well. In fact, they were treated terribly, and the book, while fiction, is at least based on current the principles and practices of Sha'ria law in Afghanistan. And, it is well documented that "honor killings" still occur in some of these countries if a girl has a pre-marital relationship or, worse yet, is the VICTIM of rape. It's quite appalling that women still face this treatment in 2008. I don't have anything else to say about this...

1 comment:

dmm said...

Financial desperation or disrespect for women? I think it's a combination. Yes, we don't do this in America, we sacrifice for our children - and I'm sure Afghani fathers would sacrifice for their sons. But their daughters don't seem to be as important, and thus less of a sacrifice. On the other hand, I think many of them wouldn't just do this sort of thing to make a buck, but are forced into it by financial desperation.