Desperate Afghan families are selling their young daughters into ‘marriages’ with adult men as poverty and famine spread across the country.
Afghanistan’s economy has collapsed under the Taliban and aid is not getting through to the most remote and impoverished regions, fuelling the vile trade.
One transaction witnessed by CNN saw nine-year-old Parwana Malik sold to a 55-year-old man for around £1,600.
Horrifying footage of the child being handed over to an elderly man was captured on camera.
Her family allowed the transaction to be filmed to highlight the plight of poor families forced into the unthinkable.
Parwana told CNN she dreams of going to school and becoming a teacher, but instead the child was dragged away from her family.
As her father, Malik, completed the deal, he pleaded with the buyer: ‘Please take care of her – you are responsible for her now, please don’t beat her.’
The buyer, identified as Qorban, said he had a wife already and that Parwana would be ‘working’ in his home, adding that he would ‘be kind’ and ‘treat her like a family member’.
She was filmed digging her feet into the dirt as her mother helped the buyer pull her away and put her into a car.
Her father said: ‘The old man told me, “I’m paying for the girl. It’s none of your business what I’m doing with her … that’s my business”.’
If the family’s financial situation doesn’t improve, Malik said, he feared he would need to sell his two-year-old daughter.
Another girl named Magul was told she may need to given to a 70-year-old man to settle a debt after her father was threatened with imprisonment in a Taliban jail.
The 10-year-old said she would rather kill herself than leave her family prior to the arrangement but the broadcaster said it had since been told the deal had gone through.
Another father told CNN he was willing to sell his daughters, four and nine, for around £800 each to stop the family starving.
Asked if she understood why she could be taken away from her family, the youngest, Zaiton, said: ‘Because we are a poor family and we don’t have food to eat.’
Child marriage is technically illegal in Afghanistan but it is widely practiced in rural parts of the country.
A UN human rights report in 2018 concluded cases were on the rise but there are fears the economic collapse of the country under Taliban rule could be fuelling a new increase.
The UN Population Fund, which promotes reproductive health, said the deals settle debts or can be used to ‘strengthen ties between rival families and tribes’.
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