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Poverty-stricken Afghans marry off underage girls in exchange for weapons, livestock

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Poverty, unemployment and the economic meltdown Afghanistan is experiencing has led some families to wed their underage daughters to middle-aged men in exchange for money, weapons or livestock, an Afghan news agency reported on Tuesday.

Afghanistan’s economy is under immense pressure, with prices of food and fuel rising sharply amid a shortage of cash, triggered by a halt in foreign aid and a drought.

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“Some families have sold their one-year-old daughters for money, livestock and weapons,” Raha news agency cites sources as saying.

The report added that an underage girl is valued between 100,000 to 250,000 Afghanis - equivalent to range of $1,108 to $2,770 - in the remote districts of Ghur province.

If the buyer doesn’t have the cash, he will give the girl’s family weapons or livestock instead.

The report noted that while the practice of selling underage girls is not a new occurrence, it has become more prevalent after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan on August 15.

News of families trading their underage daughters for material gain comes at a sensitive time for the Taliban’s government which is trying to gain international recognition.

There is widespread global skepticism of the group’s ability to ensure the country doesn’t become a haven for terrorists and for the Taliban to protect the rights of women.

Since seizing control of Afghanistan, he Taliban launched a charm offensive to rehabilitate their hardline image from their 1996-2001 era when they performed public executions, men who didn’t pray in mosques where whipped, women’s every day movements were restricted and an extreme interpretation of Islamic law, Sharia, was enforced.

However, it seems the Taliban are not changing much of their core values. Instead of forming an inclusive government, the group’s cabinet consisted only of senior group members.

The group also disbanded the Ministry of Women Affairs and brought back the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. It disbanded a lot of women’s protests with violence and delayed the return of female students to schools when male students already started classes.

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