FEATURE-Child 'drought brides' sold secretly in Kenya

Thu Aug 4, 2011 8:00am GMT
 

By Katy Migiro

HABASWEIN, Kenya, Aug 4 (TrustLaw) - "It's done in the dark," said Fatuma Ahmed, squatting inside her makeshift stick shelter.

"Some people sell their daughters at a tender age so they can get food. It's common but people are silent about it."

Prolonged drought in northern Kenya has pushed many families, like widow Ahmed and her seven children, towards the outskirts of towns where they are more likely to get food and water.

Aid is in short supply and people are resorting to desperate strategies. It's illegal to marry under the age of 18 in Kenya -- so the phenomenon of "drought brides" is only whispered about.

Child marriage is not unusual is this part of the world.

Many pastoralist communities, like Somalis in Habaswein, believe it is important to marry their girls off when they are young so that their honour, or virginity, is preserved.

Women who do not marry young are seen as flawed and a burden on their family.

"In our culture, girls marry as young as nine," said one local community health worker. "She is forced to marry someone when she is not willing. They are forced by their parents."   Continued...

 
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