June 10th, 2010
03:40 PM ET

Shelter tries to help abused child brides

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/06/10/robertson.afghan.child.brides.cnn"%5D

In disturbing video images, a 14-year-old girl is purportedly being flogged. She is alleged to have run away from a forced marriage in a remote village.

Just as disturbing to Dr. Sima Samar, chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission? "The other sad part I have to say was the reaction of the people," she says. "The lack of sensitivity of the people."

The video was given to Samar's Human Rights Commission. She says police promised her they'd prosecute the man, but so far nothing despite the country's laws that ban not just forced marriages but matrimony for girls under 16.

Many men, Samar says, including some government officials just don't get it.

"They still think that women is the property of the men and they should be treated how they want," she explains.

Samar was Afghanistan's first government Minister for women but was pushed aside for being too outspoken. Little has changed since then.

"It's 8 years," she says. "We have new system in the country and new government in the country; they should have been more pro-active on these issues."

But the central government has a lot of political issues to deal with, primarily making peace with the Taliban, and needs support from the conservative outer provinces.

No one has an exact figure exactly how many girls are forced into marriage. Estimates vary as high as 60 percent or more and attitudes here are so engrained that one government minister was recently reported as saying shelters that try to help these girls and women are an evil.

At one shelter in Kabul, they deal with the fallout of these everyday attitudes about women.

"Since January alone we've had 115 cases of forced or underage marriages," says Manizha Naderi, with the Women for Afghan Women organization who runs the shelter. 

Sukaini is typical of the recent cases. She is 15 years old now but was 13 when her family forced her to marry her 45-year-old cousin.

She says that her husband shaved her head and threatened to kill her and drop her body in a well. So she says she ran away.

Sukaini is one of the lucky ones. The shelter is helping her get a divorce. She says she doesn't want to marry again, but just get the education she never had.

But even at this shelter, not everyone can be helped.

One of the newest arrivals is a 15-year-old girl who ran away from a forced marriages. Within hours of arriving at the shelter, several parliamentarians called the shelter to demand she sent back to her family. At the shelter, though, they fear if they do that, she'll be killed.

Police put her in a juvenile detention facility for some time, but prosecutors authorized her return to the shelter as of now.

But the shelter's problems are only just beginning.

"The family has said that they are definitely going to take her back and that means even if they have to bring the whole province to stage a demonstration in front of our doors they'll do it," says Naderi. "... We have about 60 women in our shelter right now and 22 children. So it's not just her safety - I have all these other people to worry about as well."

The shelter is powerless, no one to defend them. In the city as in the countryside, she says, too many people sit back and do nothing. And that's all it takes.

• Here are some organizations helping women that are part of CNN's Impact Your World project:
Women for Afghan Women 
Women for Women International
Vital Voices Global Partnership

Related: Afghan widows struggle for survival
Related: 'Shaming' her in-laws costs 19 year old her nose, ears
Related: Officials say numbers of child brides in Iraq growing

soundoff (481 Responses)
  1. Hamed


    June 11, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Flanstein

    The death-cult of islam has these beatings planned for women around the world once they have bombed us into submission...

    June 11, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. usa

    bring them here to usa ...give them all welfare lol ..........

    June 11, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. chris

    Masood sounds like a democrat. Is that you Obama?

    June 11, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. stonedigga

    dear middle easterners,

    GET SOME GAME. then you wouldn't need arranged marriages and might actually find someone who likes you.

    June 11, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Katie

    That man needs to get the same number of strikes to his face with the metal part of a belt. And it needs to be infront of the villiage. Any 'person' that could treat a young girl so horrid is not a human anymore. Treat him like the animal he is.

    June 11, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jeff Higgins

    These "people" need to be dragged by their ears, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.

    June 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. arliss

    this is islam and nothing more. it's not an afghani or a 3rd world problem. it's their religion.

    June 11, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hannah

      Oh really? And what makes you so sure?

      June 16, 2010 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. suufa


    June 11, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MrsFizzy

    Hmm, I was trying to reply to joanne kathleen farrell,author. Why is commenting so messed up lately?!

    June 11, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Johnny Utah

    'jeffman' – by far has the best comment here. Love it!

    June 11, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tommy

    Baluchitherium, I think you made some really excellent points. I wish I had the time to actually discuss them, but I shouldn't be doing this at work right now anyways...

    June 11, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ahmad

    re: bob
    unfortunately you sound more idiotic than your gov. what to take? lets see.
    strategic location, lots and lots of uranium, pipeline deal from central asia, having military presence against russia, china, iran and the whole middle east....
    and do you personally spend a penny on some thing that does not return a benefit? i don't think so.
    so open your eyes and think properly, why would a gov spend billions of $ for nothing. as far as bombing with B52, if your gov could do it they would have done long time ago but fortunately they can't.

    June 11, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ghost

    This video makes me so mad. This is when I would like to be a sniper on a hillside. He would not be flogging anyone else and it would send a message. They need to start punishing these men, flogg them, whip them, show them what it is like. They are all pigs.

    June 11, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joyce

    Agreed with your symopsis except for one thing – you cannot compair this disturbed behavior to animals – it gives animals a bad name that they do not deserve. Even animals do not engage in this kind of sick behavior to each other. Evil grows in the field of ignorance.

    June 11, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
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