National Geographic has a riveting photo-essay and related feature article out on the problem of child marriages (the focus is on the Mideast and south Asia, though the phenomenon is not limited to this region). The photography is by Stephanie Sinclair, and it is incredible work. Above:
Kandahar policewoman Malalai Kakar arrests a man who repeatedly stabbed his wife, 15, for disobeying him. "Nothing," Kakar said, when asked what would happen to the husband. "Men are kings here." Kakar was later killed by the Taliban.
From the story by Cynthia Gorney, which makes clear there's no easy solution:
The people who work full-time trying to prevent child marriage, and to improve women's lives in societies of rigid tradition, are the first to smack down the impertinent notion that anything about this endeavor is simple. Forced early marriage thrives to this day in many regions of the world–arranged by parents for their own children, often in defiance of national laws, and understood by whole communities as an appropriate way for a young woman to grow up when the alternatives, especially if they carry a risk of her losing her virginity to someone besides her husband, are unacceptable.
(…)[I]n communities of pressing poverty, where nonvirgins are considered ruined for marriage and generations of ancestors have proceeded in exactly this fashion–where grandmothers and great-aunts are urging the marriages forward, in fact, insisting, I did it this way and so shall she–it's possible to see how the most dedicated anti-child-marriage campaigner might hesitate, trying to fathom where to begin. "One of our workers had a father turn to him, in frustration," says Sreela Das Gupta, a New Delhi health specialist who previously worked for the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), one of several global nonprofits working actively against early marriage. "This father said, 'If I am willing to get my daughter married late, will you take responsibility for her protection?' The worker came back to us and said, 'What am I supposed to tell him if she gets raped at 14?' These are questions we don't have answers to."
(thanks Marilyn Terrell, via BB Submitterator)