December 19, 2007

Afghan Marriage

Rob Wagner at 13 Martyrs talked about a photo from a UNICEF photo competition, the theme being the hardships faced by children around the world.

This particular photo, which won the competition, was taken by American Stephanie Sinclair. She said she was struck by how many young girls are married to much older men. This is a 40-year-old bridegroom and his 11-year-old bride during their wedding in Damarda, Afghanistan.

The problem I have with this photo in that, without context, the image may lead to wild conjecture. What is the man's motive for marrying this young girl? We don't know. I'm sure most Westerners would focus on the sexual aspect. I think this is what most Western men would first think of if they were given the chance to marry someone as young as this girl. That being what they would do, they ascribe this motive to the Afghan man.

But we don't know what's really in this man's heart, and his having sex with her may be years away. In a country where the average life expectancy (for both men and women) is less than 44 years (CIA World Factbook), the chances of him surviving much longer are not too good. Is she an orphan and he's providing a stable home for her? Does she come from a poor family and marrying her is a way for him to help provide for her now and later, after death, through an inheritance? Allahu alim.

Unfortunately, people often judge other cultures through their own cultural biases and, all too often, find the other culture wanting, even though they rarely have enough information to make an informed judgment. This is culture shock, no different than if a person went to Afghanistan and witnessed this scene him or herself.


Anonymous said...

The photo without context without is exactly the problem. Most people predisposed to cultural bias and bigotry are not interested in context because it just gets in the way of their agenda. When I first saw the photo floating around I didn't see or bother to read the caption. My first impression was that it was a father and daughter and I moved on. So my first impressions without context was completely different than the haters who will use the photo to further their own agenda regardless of the truth. So the next time Palestinian children are hurt or killed in a bombing, these idiots will just point to the Afghan photo without regard to context and say, "They deserve it."
As we see with "anonymous" it really doesn't matter what the truth is.

Rob Wagner said...


That would be me commenting above.

Rob Wagner

JDsg said...

Exactly, Rob. I couldn't have said it any better. (BTW, I first thought, "Wow, 'anonymous' wrote something that nice and intelligent???" ;) )

Anonymous said...

Been known to happen...

<fabulous feline fangs flash fleeting farewell>

Holla At Me Baby said...

as salam alaikum. I like your post! as a pathan born and raised in the US, I appreciate your diverse viewpoints about this picture. Without a real caption, we can't really say anything. You are very open minded and your ideas represent a common culture in islamic countries: that a young bride engaged to an older man could be for the young girl's place in the world. She may be an orphan, or would have faced a dim future, if this man didn't take her in. Thank you for not thinking like Western men (idiots) who would say that this is a version of child traffiking and exploitation. Allah huma ana - that country needs a lot of help.

Again, shukran, I appreciate you shedding light on this topic.

Ma as salam, allah hafis.

JDsg said...


Wa 'alaikum salaam, wa shukran to you too for the very nice comment.