The “Unicef Photo of the Year 2007” is this picture by American photographer Stephanie Sinclair of an 11-year old Afghan girl sitting next to her 40-year old soon-to-be-husband.
Portrait of soon to be wed Faiz Mohammed, 40, and Ghulam Haider, 11, at her home in a rural village of Damarda in Ghor province. Ghulam said she is sad to be getting engaged as she wanted to be a teacher. Her favorite class was Dari, the local language, before she was made to drop out of school. Married girls are seldom found in school, limiting their economic and social opportunities. Parents sometimes remove their daughters from school to protect them from the possibility of sexual activity outside of wedlock. It is hard to say exactly how many young marriages take place, but according to the Afghan women’s ministry and women’s NGOs, approximately 57 percent of Afghan girls get married before the legal age of 16. In addition, once the girl’s father has agreed to the engagement, she is pulled out of school immediately. Early pregnancies also result in an increase in complications during child birth.
From the Unicef website:
He’s forty, she’s eleven. And they are a couple – the Afghan man Mohammed F.* and the child Ghulam H.*. “We needed the money”, Ghulam’s parents said. Faiz claims he is going to send her to school. But the women of Damarda village in Afghanistan’s Ghor province know better: “Our men don’t want educated women.” They predict that Ghulam will be married within a few weeks after her engagement in 2006, so as to bear children for Faiz.
In such marriages, the man is likely to view the age difference as a fair bargain, his years of experience in exchange for her years of fecundity. At the same time, the girl’s wishes are customarily disregarded. Her marriage will end her opportunities for schooling and independent work.
On the day she witnessed the engagement party of 11-year-old Ghulam Haider to 40-year-old Faiz Mohammed, Sinclair discreetly took the girl aside. “What are you feeling today?” the photographer asked. “Nothing,” the bewildered girl answered. “I do not know this man. What am I supposed to feel?”
This is a beautiful picture, it’s good photography, but the girl in the picture is a kid and she’s going to marry this man who will rape her and make her have babies although her body is not ready, although she hardly understands what is going on, although she is hoping for something else in her life. Something is wrong here.
Whenever I hear people talk “politically correct” and claim to respect cultural differences even in the face of barbaric traditions like these I don’t think they are liberals, I think they are stupid and cowards. I remember a case here where a Turkish man poured gasoline over his wife and set her on fire. The judge’s opinion was that this was a cultural thing and an extenuating cause. I don’t know what would have happened in a Turkish court, but marital rape is a crime in Turkey (it took a while, but still):
Also praiseworthy was the enactment of new legislation, including the law on the protection of the family, by which domestic violence had been legally defined for the first time, and the anticipated entry into force this year of the new Penal Code, which, for the first time, criminalized marital rape and sexual harassment in the workplace.
I wonder where people get the notion that “different culture” (or maybe I should say, “Islamic culture”) means living like animals and that people have no sense of wrong doing.
I often heard men complain about feminism (especially American men, by the way), even women make statements like “I’m not a feminist by nature” (meaning: unlike you I’m so supersuccessful with men – *yawn*) or “I’m not a feminist. I’m supersexual and feminine, I’m self-confident and well-educated with a college degree” (then take a good look at countries like Afghanistan and see where you might be without feminism), but when you see a picture like this you know they should shut up and that feminism is still a worthy cause.