United Nations expert Yakin Erturk said that violence against women in Afghanistan is commonplace, pointing to forced and child marriages as the primary cause of violence. Erturk, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on Violence Against Women, highlighted poverty, lack of education, and years of warfare as the major causes of women’s current plight in Afghanistan.
Erturk has just finished a ten-day visit to Afghanistan, where she met with government officials, judiciary members, doctors, police officers, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and women in prison to assess Afghan women’s current circumstances. Afghan women have little protection from abusive situations and few options for redress. The UN expert urged the Afghanistan government and the international community to make the eradication of violence against Afghan women a priority.
The Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs estimates that approximately 60 percent of Afghan marriages include women under 16 years old, the legal marriage age for women, according to IRIN News. Child marriage affects millions of women in developing countries and puts women at risk of contracting health problems, such as obstetric fistula, from becoming pregnant at an early age. Masouda Jalal, the Afghan Minister of Women’s Affairs, called child marriage “a violation of equality” and harmful to girl’s health, their educational and economic opportunities and political participation,” reports IRIN News.