Child marriage is a violation of children’s human rights. Despite being prohibited by international law, it continues to rob millions of girls under 18 around the world of their childhood
Huma’s Story – Forced Child Marriage – Abuse, Torture, Escape
Huma came to Women for Afghan Women (WAW) three years ago when she was only 19 years old. When she was 14, her family arranged her marriage and a formal engagement took place. Her fiancé, Saif Allah, often visited her after the engagement. One day, he arrived with blood all over his clothes. He proceeded to take Huma to his home, even though a wedding had not yet taken place. Huma and her mother were screaming but he just dragged her off by force. He kept her there for two months, during which time he raped and tortured her. Eventually, a wedding took place. To listen to Huma recount about her life with Saif Allah is to hear a litany of terrible violence against her, her mother, sister, and even against Saif Allah’s own relatives.
Saif Allah is a Taliban fighter and an unstable sadist. Over the years he tortured Huma in unimaginable ways. He hung her up by her hair and stuck hot pokers in her body. He broke her legs and ripped out her finger nails. She has photos of the original wounds and scars. During this time the only happiness Huma knew was when she had two sons. Her love for her sons carried her through this dark time.
After one violent incident, Saif Allah’s family took Huma to the hospital. She was discharged back to her own family’s home. Saif Allah’s brothers came there and asked her to return. They promised to take care of her and promised that they wouldn’t let Saif Allah repeat the terrible violence. Saif Allah also promised to begin a new life with her. Huma trusted them and went with them again. She soon realized she had made a terrible mistake because nothing had changed. Saif Allah started beating her immediately. He told her, “your mother and sister should come here right now, otherwise I will kill you.” Helplessly, Huma informed her mother and she came with her younger sister. Saif Allah beat all three women within inches of their lives. Her mother and sister escaped leaving Huma to fend for herself.
Saif Allah was so furious about Huma’s mother and sister’s escape that he beat Huma to the point that she lost an eyelid, and he bit her arms. Her sister-in-law told her that Saif Ali was planning to kill her and that he and his brother had dug a grave for her body somewhere. Huma decided that she couldn’t take it anymore. She knew of an organization which was helping widows. She decided to risk her life and have a chance at safety and freedom by telling her husband a lie. She said that her mother would be at the widows’ organization waiting for her. Huma asked him to take her there. Saif Allah took her to the organization. Upon arrival, he received a phone call. He said that he had urgent work and had to leave. He instructed her to return home with her mother and sister. As soon as he left, the staff of the widows’organization asked Huma if she would like to be taken to the police station. They immediately sensed her extreme danger and saw the abuse that had been piled on her. She eagerly accepted. The Chief of the 6th Police District took Huma to a hospital. Her injuries required that she stay for 45 days. Hospital staff understood that she needed to be discharged to a safe location and she was a taken to Women for Afghan Women’s shelter.
It took almost two years for our lawyers to get Huma a divorce because Saif Allah wouldn’t show up in court. He continued to make endless threats against Huma’s family, especially her mother. Like her daughter, she had to flee and leave the family village and hide in Kabul.
Huma now lives in Kabul with her mother and is trying to rebuild their lives. WAW has hired her and she now earns a respectable salary working for us. She manages the emergency shelter in our Kabul Family Guidance Center, where we house women temporarily. These women either get transferred to our secret women’s shelter or get reunited with their families, depending on their particular circumstances. Huma is famous at WAW for the boundless kindness and gentleness with which she treats all the women who stay at our Center and everyone she encounters. She never attended school before coming to WAW but is now taking literacy course and has plans for more education or vocational training. She has not seen her sons since she ran away and may never see them again. This is the part she can’t overcome and may never be able to. She becomes hysterical, even hyperventilates when she thinks of them or when anyone brings them up. In Afghanistan women must often give up their children if they leave their abusers. Divorce Courts are legislatively required to award the children to the fathers.