Afghan girls -- not so liberated after all

It's not just Iraqi women whose rights are in danger.

By Katharine Mieszkowski
August 19, 2005 4:50PM (UTC)
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Salon senior writer Katharine Mieszkowski looks at a new report on underage marriage in Afghanistan.

Howard Dean angered Republicans last weekend when he dared to suggest that Iraqi women may be worse off in the new Iraq than they were under Saddam Hussein. While Dean's paying attention to the sorry state of women's rights in countries the United States has forcibly "liberated," we hope he doesn't overlook Afghanistan.


The United Nations' newest report finds that underage marriage is a rampant problem in the country, especially in rural areas. "Nearly 45 percent of marriages in this country involve girls below the legal age of 16," the U.N. Population Fund said in a statement. "The tradition of marrying off daughters as young as six is still common."

Afghan girls are sometimes traded as chattel to resolve disputes with another tribal family. The children become the "property of the family or individual who receives them," the report says. The U.N. Population Fund will hold a two-day workshop with Islamic leaders to grapple with the problem later this month in Kabul.

The report reminded us of how President Bush and even Laura Bush sold the war with Afghanistan to the American people as a bid to end the horrific oppression of women under the Taliban. And, then, how on Women's Equality Day in 2002, a triumphant President Bush boasted: "Our coalition has liberated Afghanistan and restored fundamental human rights and freedoms to Afghan women, and all the people of Afghanistan. Young girls in Afghanistan are able to attend schools for the first time."


Afghan girls -- now free to marry at age 6. That's some liberation.

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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