Written by Staff Writer
(CNN) – A young Afghan girl who was sold by her parents to a child marriage broker for less than $300 has been rescued, Afghan authorities said Thursday.
Fahimeh Gul was 15 when her father sold her to a broker, who offered her up for marriage. No wonder that after the shock of her mother’s call to arrange a marriage to an older man at a religious ceremony less than a month earlier, Fehim Gul knew she had no option but to comply.
Saddened by the news of her daughter’s forced marriage, Fehim Gul’s father decided that his daughter needed to have her “own future.”
“His son proposed to his daughter and we realized that this means we have to have a future before a man can come in. She should live and get married because she belongs to a good family.”
The father of the bride-to-be told the Herald of Afghanistan that his daughter had completed her primary school education, and didn’t believe she deserved such an order. “She had been going to school since last year, but she has not been at school for nearly a year. Her parents ordered that she get married and I came to her rescue.”
Fehim Gul was the key character in an investigation by Good for the Good that exposed several cases of young women forced into child marriages in Afghanistan, most of them girls.
The Donors Council for National Empowerment, an umbrella group for 24 nongovernmental organizations working on empowerment in Afghanistan, decided to try to help Fehim Gul and his daughter by launching a campaign called ‘Had the Right to Choose.’
Through their social media channels, the group invited people to write a message to Fehim Gul, on behalf of the girls in their lives and asking for support.
On March 6, Fehim Gul received a message from a girl who knew about his daughter’s case and who had written to him in his personal Facebook page. Fehim Gul passed the message to the Donors Council, which then alerted Afghan authorities.
On Tuesday, Fehim Gul was rescued from his family’s home in Kabul.
The broker was arrested and has confessed to his illegal trade, said Abdul Qadir Alwani, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. Police have also raided another brothel in Kabul for girls from 10 to 16 years old, and arrested an adult man.
Women and girls in Afghanistan have less social, political and economic rights than men, but the country has taken more steps in recent years to eliminate child marriages.
In the last decade, police and NGOs have arrested thousands of the perpetrators of illegal child marriages, seized 50,000 marriage licenses and confiscated 1,000 trucks that were carrying underage brides.
Illegal child marriages increased in 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, from 3,597 to 5,689, a 56% increase.
“Early marriage is a crime, and this is the third case of early marriage of a child that we have rescued so far in Kabul and we expect to rescue many more,” Alwani said.