• Athena Ives

These are NOT Child Brides

By Athena Ives

October 30, 2021

Prior to the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. State Department’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report ranked Afghanistan as Tier 3. This means that “the Government of Afghanistan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity. During the reporting period there was a government pattern of sexual slavery in government compounds (bacha bazi—a practice in which men exploit boys for social and sexual entertainment) and recruitment and use of child soldiers; therefore, Afghanistan remained on Tier 3” (State, 2021).

Anti-human trafficking organizations and experts have voiced their concern about the impact the withdrawal will have on vulnerable populations in Afghanistan. When there are large numbers of desperate people trying to flee and get to safety, criminals take advantage. Smuggling often morfs into trafficking. One very concerning development is the rape of children under the guise of marriage and the common practice of bacha bazi. According to the Associated Press “U.S. officials are looking into reports that in the frantic evacuation of desperate Afghans from Kabul, older men were admitted together with young girls they claimed as 'brides' or otherwise sexually abused” (Lee, 2021). U.S. officials working at Afghanistan intake centers in the UAE and Wisconsin have requested guidance on how to handle the cases of polygamy and children (some under the age of 12) forced to become brides to escape the Taliban. Due to the fact that there are no current immigration and federal laws regarding child marriage, the U.S. is not prepared to deal with this crisis (Lee, 2021). This is yet another reminder that the U.S. NEEDS TO ESTABLISH FEDERAL AND IMMIGRATION CHILD MARRIAGE LAWS! According to the Department of Homeland Security “Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” These are not child brides! If the U.S. had federal and immigration child marriage laws, we would not be facing this issue.

According to a U.K. helpline run by Unseen (a charity fighting human trafficking), “in 2020 Afghanistan appeared for the first time in the top ten nationalities of most reported” (Casalicchio, 2021). The U.K. is deeply concerned that the withdrawal is going to significantly increase the exploitation of those fleeing Afghanistan, particularly women and children. “Commercial sexual exploitation, child sexual exploitation, recruitment of children for armed groups as well as labor exploitation are the most relevant types of human trafficking that the criminal networks can be involved with in Afghanistan,” said Shahrzad Fouladvand, a lecturer in international criminal law at the University of Sussex (Casalicchio, 2021).


Casalicchio, E. (2021, September 10). Politico. Retrieved from https://www.politico.eu/article/uk-braces-for-human-trafficking-surge-from-afghanistan/

Lee, M. (2021, September 3). Associated Press. Retrieved from https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-child-trafficking-27d93a340c4834d497eb36e22bb72f42

State, U. D. (2021). 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report Afghanistan. Retrieved from https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-trafficking-in-persons-report/afghanistan/