Belgrade, Serbia / Laghman Province, Afghanistan / ESK ?? Eh? R, Turkey, February 15th (IPS) – What is the value of a girl? If you are Maja, the answer is chicken, six cans of beer and 100 euros.
This is the amount her family, who lives in the Roma settlement in Serbia, received in exchange for their “marriage” hand. She was 11 years old at the time. “They took advantage of it for maybe a month,” said Maja, who is now 18 years old. “I had a problem all my life.”
“My three sisters did not do much better. She gave birth to one of them when she was 13 years old. They were not sold, but they ran away from our mother at a young age. I was the only one who was sold.”
According to 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster SurveyIn Roma settlements, approximately 56 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 in Serbia were married before the age of 18, while about 16 percent were married before the age of 15.
And in 2017 a study On Migrant Women in Serbia, conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the NGO partner organization Latina, 52 per cent of respondents could not choose when and with whom they will marry. The average age of the girls who got married was 17.5 years. The youngest was seven.
One participant explained how partners are chosen: “How do you, as a girl, know who will be a good partner? This is for your family to decide.”
For child brides everywhere, the Archaeology It can be destructively predictable: their education stops, their income-earning capacity stifles and poverty persists.
They may have complications – even death – due to pregnancy and childbirth, their little bodies just not ready to handle it; They are more vulnerable to gender-based violence; They may develop mental disorders that may lead to suicidal tendencies.
To be clear: None of this is the result of a decision she made, not her body, present, or future.
Horror then hope
At 15 years old, Zulekha *, in Afghanistan, was enjoying school and wanted to be a doctor. But her distressed family arranged her marriage to an older man who was roughly twice her age. Despite her objections and the fact that the intended groom was unemployed, she was forced to marry against her will.
Almost immediately, Zulekha was no longer allowed to attend classes. Zulekha’s husband began to pour out his anger and frustration on her. He beat her almost daily, and in the fall of 2019, she went to the regional hospital in Laghman Province because of a broken eye socket and a damaged back.
In the emergency department, she has been identified as a victim of gender-based violence. At the hospital’s family protection center, and through the family response unit, established by the United Nations Population Fund, Zulekha received psychosocial and legal support, as well as skills training.
Her husband was eventually found guilty of abuse and sentenced to six months in prison. “A girl should not be forbidden from what she dreams,” she said. “This is every girl’s right: to decide her own future.”
If Fathia, 16, and her family had not fled to Turkey from Iraq in 2017, she would have been a wife and now drop out of school. “In our culture, girls are married at a young age,” she said.
“This is very common, especially if the girl is out of school.” I grew up in a world where girls were denied equal access to education, and families and societies often forced them to stay at home.
When the family arrived in Turkey, “The first months were very difficult. I remembered that I did not speak or write the language. My family felt insecure and would not let us out. They did not even plan to send us back to school.”
Then they were connected to a safe space for women and girls run by the United Nations Population Fund, which was designated for refugees and migrants. She said, “A ray of hope emerged, but after that it was farther than I had imagined.” The center convinced her parents that Fathia should continue her studies without being anyone’s wife.
“My parents trusted the center and acknowledged that their services were helpful, if not life-changing. Not only did I learn how to speak Turkish but I started courses to finish high school remotely. I attended theater and shooting courses and made many friends. I regained my self-confidence again.”
Today, Zulekha is 17 years old and runs a sewing business and trains other women to also become financially independent. Fathia dreams of going to university and working in a field that would allow her to help others.
For Maja, who escaped from her painful past at the age of 14 with the help of Atina, the future looks brighter than ever. “The most important thing in life is the enjoyment of peace and freedom.” She said, “Everything that remains will come.” “After everything that has happened to me, I know that I can only manage if I am free.”
* Name has been changed to protect identitySource: United Nations Population Fund.
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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service