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Posted: Nov 17, 2021 11:00 AM

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A recent viral video of a 9 year-old Afghan girl being sold as a child “bride” rocked me to my core but the truth is even worse than people understand.  Every year across the world, 12 million young girls under the age of 18 are forced into “marriage.” This equates to 28 young girls, mere children, married every minute. Where are the women who march around our nation’s cities in pink hats in the name of women’s rights and empowerment right now? Silent.  The effects on girls forced into marriage at such an early age are detrimental and impact their whole life: literacy, health, and overall well-being. Girls under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth, and, just as devastating, a child born to a child bride is 60% more likely to die in their first year of life. These young brides also may not have access to healthcare because they typically exhibit signs of physical and sexual abuse for which their “husbands” would be prosecuted.  The CNN piece mentioned above highlighted the story of a 9‑year-old girl in Afghanistan that was sold by her family to a 55-year-old man for $2,000 so that her family would have money for food. This family had been plunged into extreme poverty, a shocking and heartbreaking tale becoming even more common since the disastrous departure of the U.S. from the region.  Our exit undoubtedly left behind Americans, Afghani families, children, and especially women and girls. Poverty, conflict, and persecution are increasing, and along with it all – so is child marriage. In times of extreme conflict, women and girls are at a higher risk of suffering from sexual violence and human trafficking. Child marriage often falls under one of these two categories.  The atrocity of child brides happens worldwide and the Middle East is not the biggest culprit. According to UNICEF, the highest levels are found in West and Central Africa. Almost 4 in 10 girls are married before age 18. Lower levels are found in Eastern and Southern Africa (31%), South Asia (28%), and the Caribbean (22%). This is a practice that affects 650 million girls worldwide. Girls deserve better. They deserve the protection of their innocence, to play as a child, to receive an education, and to dream about their futures. For young girls in Afghanistan especially, this is not the reality. They are in extreme and absolute danger under the Taliban regime, and it shows no signs of improving.  The United States must step forward and work to end the prac …

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