I am always amazed by the power in photography as a medium for conveying messages and ideas. Photojournalism provides the opportunity for news and information to take on a completely new meaning and persona as viewers are able to visualize and internalize photos far easier than text on a page.
When I think of a Bride, I imagine a happy woman who’s been planning a wedding for months, and who’s surrounded by people she loves. In many societies, marriage is a joyous occasion between two consenting adults who can’t wait to spend their lives together. Unfortunately in some places in the world, that is not the case.
Child marriage ruins the childhood and ordinary life experiences for many young girls. Many of these “brides” are still children, not even teenagers yet. Child brides don’t have access to education, have restricted relationships with friends and family, and this practice adds to the vicious cycle of poverty. Child brides are also subject to extreme domestic and sexual abuse, causing physical harm and dangerous pregnancies.
Portrait of Said Mohammed, 55, and Roshan, 8, on the day of their engagement in the village of Chavosh in Ghor province. Father of the bride, Abdul Kasem, 60, said he is unhappy giving his daughter away at such a young age, but has no choice due to severe poverty. ‘I am very poor and have many problems,’ Abdul Qasem said. ‘I need money and I have three other daughters. Do you think I want to marry my daughter so young?’
Police woman Malalai Kakar arrests Janan, 35, after he tried to kill his fifteen-year-old wife Jamila. The young bride angered him by fleeing her home to stay with her mother after enduring years of abuse from her husband and mother-in-law. Janan came to the mother’s house to kill Jamila for leaving their home, and ended up stabbing Jamilia’s grandmother multiple times as well when she tried to cover Jamlia with her body to protect her. Jamila was engaged at when she was only a 1-year-old and was married at 10. As a premature bride, she lacked the skills to be a proper wife, which resulted in the abuse she received. Jamila’s mother, Malika, said, ‘I kept my daughter at my house and hoped to explain to my son-in-law why he should not beat her, but he barged into the house and tried to kill her.’
“Child marriage robs girls of the ordinary life experiences other young people take for granted. It denies their right to education, often restricts friendships with peers and perpetuates the cycle of poverty in their communities.
Young married girls have little power in relation to their husbands and in-laws in many of these cultures. They are therefore extremely vulnerable to domestic violence. This violence may include physical, sexual or psychological abuse. The experience of pregnancy can also be traumatizing for a girl who is still a child herself. She is more likely to have obstructed labor as her small body may be compromised during childbirth. Prolonged obstructed labor can then lead to fistula, a debilitating condition where the girl can no longer control her urine and bowel movements. Child brides also have double the pregnancy death rate of women in their 20s.”
A rose is held up to the face of Rokhshana who was near death at Herat Public Hospital. She set herself on fire when her husband, who left her to go to Iran 14 years earlier, demanded she return to him. She was only 10 when they were married.
Fauza sits naked while waiting for new dressings to be put on her burns. She denies burning herself on purpose, which is often the case for fear of being an embarassment or being treated poorly by hospital staff, but relatives confirm that that she self-immolated. NGOs in Herat Province have reported a sharp rise in the number of young wives who douse themselves in kerosene and burn themselves in an effort to get away from their husbands.
Female family members mourn outside the home of Rokhshana in the village of Yakhdaan the day of the funeral, as cultural traditions forbids women to attend funerals. Rokhshana set herself on fire when her husband, whom she married at age 10, demanded she return to him after 14 years abroad. She died in the hospital from her wounds.
A nine-months pregnant Niruta, 14, arrives at the wedding ceremony. Niruta moved in with the family of Durga Bahadur Balami, 17, and became pregnant when they were only engaged. In some circles of the more socially open Newar people, this is permissible.
A young prostitute named China sits stunned after being beat up by a man visiting Kabele Five. Many of the girls running away from child marriages end up trafficked to brothels where they face incredible violence.
How to Help
UNFPA, The United Nations Population Fund: This organization helps young girls in danger of child marriage by supporting them in school, life skills, and reproductive health. The UNFPA also works with communities to develop policies that support adolescent girls and end the practice of child marriage once and for all.
To find out more on how you can help fight against Child Marriage, visit their website at www.tooyoungtowed.org