A new pictorial in the June issue of National Geographic illustrates the heartbreaking and archaic practice in parts of Asia and Africa, that forces terrified girls as young as five to marry men well into their 50s.
And according to the magazine, it’s estimated that 10 to 12 million girls in the developing world are forced into such weddings!
It’s important to note that while some of the countries—like India—where this practice occurs have national laws banning underage marriage, it still occurs, often in villages after-dark to avoid police raids, reports the magazine. (And don’t think such a sick practice does not happen in North America: Warren Jeffs reportedly arranged for adult males to marry girls as young as 12, for which he was arrested.)
For the story, journalist Cynthia Gomey and photographer Stephanie Sinclair traveled to Yemen and India, and discovered that some of these marriages are business transactions or to resolve a family feud—but many are not, and are essentially child rape.
The sheer horror of child brides has prompted celebrities like U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Mira Sorvino to speak out in the past against it.
According to National Geographic, Indian girls will typically be attached to boys four or five years older. But it’s reported that in Yemen, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and other countries with a similar oppressive set of values, “the husbands may be young men, middle-aged widowers or even abductors who rape first and claim their victims as wives afterwards.”
There’s a notion among the parents of these child brides, that marrying off a girl when she is very young pre-empts the possibility of her losing her virignity before marriage.
Girls are often physically abused and are too frightened to escape their captor-husbands. And the physical trauma is just devasting, with one doctor in Yemen saying that many of these girls have ripped vaginal walls and other internal ruptures.
And the horrific toll such unions take on the young girls is glaring and horrendous.
In one case, a girl named Tahani, who was just six when she married a 25-year-old man, told the magazine, “Whenever I saw him, I hid. I hate to see him.’”
Then there’s a five-year-old bride in India named Rajani who fell asleep before her wedding ceremony began, and had to be woken up and carried by her uncle to the ceremony.
There’s also the story about 10-year-old Ayesha in Yemen—forced to marry a 50-year-old man—whose sister told reporters that, that “little Ayesha screamed when she saw the man she was to marry.”
Adds her sister, “She has a mobile phone. Every day, she calls me and cries.”
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