March 30th, 2008

cartoon

The Opium Brides of Afghanistan

link

Khalida's father says she's 9—or maybe 10....The trafficker found them anyway and demanded his opium. So Shah took his case before a tribal council in Laghman and begged for leniency. Instead, the elders unanimously ruled that Shah would have to reimburse the trafficker by giving Khalida to him in marriage. Now the family can only wait for the 45-year-old drugrunner to come back for his prize. Khalida wanted to be a teacher someday, but that has become impossible. "It's my fate," the child says.

Local farmers say more than one debtor has been bound hand and foot, then locked into a small windowless room with a smoldering fire, slowly choking to death.

In the two districts she studied, approximately half the new brides had been given in marriage to repay opium debts. The new brides included children as young as 5 years old; until they're old enough to consummate their marriages, they mostly work as household servants for their in-laws.

. "I pray that God doesn't give me a daughter if she ends up like me."