Too Young to Wed: Exhibit Exposes Plight of Child Brides
Too Young to Wed: Exhibit Exposes Plight of Child Brides

NEW YORK—A young woman in Afghanistan, Jamila, 15, was stabbed by her husband because she visited her mother without permission.

For her own safety, a girl in Yemen, Tehani, had to hide from her husband, Majed. They got married when she was only 6 and he was 25 years old.

A powerful exhibit that opened on Jan. 19 in the Bronx Documentary Center, Too Young to Wed, exposes the experiences of underage brides whose lives are often under threat. It’s a widespread phenomenon across the world.

Pulitzer Prize and World Press Photo Award winner Stephanie Sinclair started working on the project in 2003, when she was in Afghanistan. She was working as a photojournalist in the burn ward of a hospital in Herat where she encountered young girls who were setting themselves on fire. She discovered that for many the reason for their self-immolation was underage marriage.

Since then she has captured experiences of young brides in Afghanistan, Nepal, India, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Yemen, and even in the United States.

Her dedication to the project was triggered when she spent time with Mejgon, a girl who was sold by her drug-addicted father at the age of 11. Mejgon’s husband raped and abused her.

Sinclair remembered Mejgon saying, “In my whole life, I have never felt love,” while she tried to comfort the girl.

Child marriage happens among poor families not able to feed all of their children. Parents marry off their daughters to make alliances or for settling debts.

According to the International Center for Research on Women, 1 in 9 girls around the world marry at an age younger than 15, and in 2010, 67 million 20- to 24-year-old women had married before the age of 18.

“The subject is extremely disturbing, but is also beautifully shot,” said Michael Kamber, founder and director of the Bronx Documentary Center. “There’s a tension between the beauty and the disturbance,” he added.

Sinclair, a resident of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, feels that as a photojournalist it is her responsibility to raise awareness of the issue.

“It doesn’t matter so much what tool you have,” she said. “Photographing from our heart is the most important part.”

The exhibit is on until March 30 at the Bronx Documentary Center, 614 Courtlandt Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10451. T: 718-993-3512 E: [email protected] – Entry is Free.

  • JasmineStarlight

    Most of them are worse then animals, ABUSIVE…. I read the first few lines and that was enough. The same ol – same ol …. mediEVIL countries. No respect shown women and citizens too….barbarians of the worse kind. I hope one day it changes for these women, they have rights. There’s some brave women making inroads changing laws and promoting education, too slowly though. What these women endure is unimaginable to me.

    • Richard M

      If you’d read a bit further, you’d have learned that one of the countries where the photographer documented barbaric abuse of children, is USA.

      This is called “Freedom of Religion” by the perverts that condone this vile behavior. The practitioners of any vile cult that condones this abuse and torture are not “religious”. They are criminals who should be incarcerated for the remainder of their vile loathsome existences.

      The expression of the child in the green tent-dress says it all.

      • AskandTell

        Child marriages are not only the result of religion; but of culture. In India, almost all marriages are arranged. It is considered a marriage of families; not individuals. Even the most educated and elite of India believe in this tradition.

        All of these child marriages are illegal within the countries which is why it’s very hidden by the families and extraordinary that these photographers were able to gain access.

        • Richard M

          It’s a good point, and USA is not the World Police to be enforcing our laws in India, Nepal, Saudi or Sudan.

          We can and should enforce them here, though. I don’t care what country they are from or what their religion is or what they were brainwashed into believing growing up. As soon as they enter USA they are subject to US law. Just as we are, if we go there.

          I was disgusted recently when a Saudi “Princess” skated scott free after holding slaves in her gated compound in San Diego. If foreigners are unwilling to obey US laws, they should stay out of US. If they do violate US laws here they should receive the same penalty Dahmer and Gacy and that freak in Cleveland received.

          • AskandTell

            It is against the law in India, Nepal, Saudia, and Sudan. But as the producer explained, if the government tries to come between the culture (stopping the marriage), the girl will be banished from their closed society for life. This is happening in the rural areas of these countries. The documentary tries to show this is not a black and white issue. These girls are loved but they are following the tradition of their culture. They have no women teachers so the cycle continues with no options for these girls except marriage.

          • Richard M

            I understand the cultural differences. If children are considered married by family arrangement, that is a cultural issue. If vows or rings are exchanged, that’s a cultural issue. If children are abused it is a criminal issue.

            Warren Jeffs sits in prison for life. Deservedly so. Our politicians condone the same crimes Jeffs committed, by perverts from other cultures……

          • AskandTell

            And the FLDS hasn’t changed their beliefs or ways just because Jeffs is in prison. The state knows the makeup of the compounds as almost all the residents receive welfare assistance.

          • Richard M

            I’ve read that the male children are driven out of the community, in their teens. Since the “old bulls” will tolerate no competition for the herd…..Just like wild animals. I would deport the men to Saudi. Sounds like they’d be right at home.

          • AskandTell

            I agree with following laws here. Unfortunately, too many have diplomatic immunity from our laws.

      • JasmineStarlight

        I couldn’t read any further its really awful…I have read similar stories reported.
        I remember here in the states –where some of these ‘religious’ people were killing their kids, that they through were becoming to American—dishonoring them. It’s beyond me how a parent could do an honor killing, and sell their kids off too. I guess it’s embedded in them, generation after generating…indoctrination . It’s sickening its going to take a long time, for minds to change there. I agree with you, lock them away–loathsome slime.

        Hope you’re having a great day Rich….it’s good to be free at least, and being able to make our own choices without fear.

  • Greta42

    Looking at the expressions on the faces of the young girls is very revealing. They show no indications of life, just dull staring into space. While their size indicates that they’re children, their demeanor does not. We should not use the term “child brides” because it implies consent to be a bride. Let’s call it what it really is, children being sold into slavery to men who are pedophiles and torturers.

    • Richard M

      Good points, Greta. The complicity of our politicians and media in condoning these crimes is despicable.

    • VincentTPackhorse

      Perhaps the appellation “slave brides” would be more appropriate for this base and repugnant practice.

      I try to see the best in people, but this is depravity and callousness beyond the pale of human behavior. These people should be condemned and ostracized from society.

      Finally, are there no voices of conscience and compassion dwelling in these cultures to denounce the innate wrongness of this practice? If not, then they are lost to us.

      These girls must be saved and given a chance for happiness. It’s the right thing to do.

      • Greta42

        Pure slavery indeed – This barbaric and callous practice is unfortunately part of the culture and we know how long it takes to make big changes. It needs to be stopped, banned, outlawed and then must be punishable to the participants who still engage in it.

  • Enri

    Sinclair’s work is really important. Without global exposure, these arranged child-geezer weddings will continue, and we all know what religion condones this “custom”.

  • AskandTell

    Fascinating video narrated by the photographer of this exhibit; Too Young to Wed

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