With an ailing economy that has been hard hit by a prolonged drought and with the Taliban takeover, desperate Afghans starving of poverty are forced to sell everything, including their own daughters.
Afghanistan's future is looking bleak, with the turmoil and catastrophic humanitarian conditions in the country, families are forced to sell their own children.
According to the United Nations report, half of the country's population suffers from difficulty in securing basic food needs, while large numbers of families are forced to sell their daughters to feed the other family members, in a country where poverty rates have reached 97 percent.
The Taliban's rise to power, and the cut-off of international aid due to the US-led exodus of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from the country, has deepened the crises of hunger and misery in the country.
On August 15, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, simultaneously with the final stage of a US military withdrawal that was completed at the end of the same month.
Thousands of people were forced to migrate to neighboring states or districts due to the drought that has worsened over the past three years and because of the armed conflicts between the Taliban and the previous government.
Mr. Hamza Mousazi and his family are struggling to survive in Afghanistan. They have nothing to eat but a few kilograms of flour. Mousazi, who has 6 daughters and one son, told the Anadolu Agency that he sold his 5-year-old daughter to someone from Kandahar for 1,500 dollars last year in order to meet the family's daily food requirements. The stranger bought his daughter to marry her to his son, and the family lives today in Pakistan.
Mousazi mentioned that his wife cries every day and wants to go to Pakistan to see her daughter. He said, "I can only talk to my daughter once a year. I do not have the financial means to contact her.”
Mousazi emphasized that three months ago he sold his 3-year-old daughter to a family from Kandahar for 50,000 Afghanis (500 dollars), and that the girl will leave the house when she will be six years old.
"We don't even have the money to buy a small amount of flour at the moment. I sold my two daughters. I have four more and I have to sell them. We are hungry, we have neither a job nor a source of income to support us,” he said.
Human rights reports reveal that Mousazi’s case is not an exception; there are many people like him in the region willing to sell their daughters because of poverty.
In December 2021, a UN report, entitled Afghanistan: Humanitarian crisis threatens basic human rights, indicated that: “As Afghans struggle to meet basic needs, they are being pushed to take desperate measures, including child labor and child marriage. News reports have also surfaced of children being sold.”
Bloomberg Quicktake produced a brief video on the rising poverty, food shortages, and the severe economic hardship facing the people of Afghanistan. “Parents in Afghanistan have been forced to sell their children, mainly daughters, in order to feed the rest of their family,” the video says.
The video disclosed the sad story of Aziz Gul, the mother of a ten-year-old girl who was sold due to poverty. The mother said: “We didn’t have anything to eat at home, I told my husband to bring some food before our children die of hunger. So, he kept on bringing in food and I asked him, where do you make the money from to buy all these foods? He told me, “I have sold my daughter into marriage to get money and buy food.”
The video showed Hamid Abdullah the father of a different girl, who was sold at the age of seven years old. The father is looking to sell his second daughter for the equivalent of $200 to $300. “Today I am not even able to get food for my family or medicine for my sick wife, so I don’t have any other choice,” he said in the video. “I have to sell her because of poverty, vulnerability, and the bad situation we are in.”
The national director of World Vision in Afghanistan, Asuntha Charles, stressed that she was “heartbroken” to learn of families selling their children to afford necessities because this level of severe poverty was not the norm in Afghanistan. “The situation is deteriorating in this country and especially children are suffering,” Charles said.
Why Daughters in Particular?
In an interview with Al-Estiklal, the Researcher at Sabahattin Zaim University Soumia Rahali said: “The ultimate question that pops up to our minds is why parents are selling their daughters in particular? The sad answer is that the boys in such a patriarchal society are at least able to do some profit-generating activities, such as shoe-shining, collecting plastic and paper from garbage or other dead-end jobs.
"Even though those jobs are generating a very small amount of money and are not suitable for children who need to be in school, at least they can prevent the family members from dying of hunger. The male children can also be recruited to fight for the military groups or for the authorities, which may enhance to some extent the family conditions.”
The UN report indicated that as many as 4.2 million young Afghans are already out of school, 60 percent of them girls. The girls drop out from school to work cleaning wool and making ropes. The value of one kilogram of woolen yarn is equivalent to 50 Afghan afghanis (about $0.5), and to obtain one kilogram of yarn requires 2-3 days of work.
Many families are forced to "dispose" of their daughters because they do not have the ability to contribute to supporting the family financially. For this reason, selling young girls for marriage is common across the country.
Buyers can allow girls to stay with their families until the age of 11-12 years. When girls reach this age, they are obligated to marry the buyers or their sons.