AFGHANISTAN(see alsoPashtun)


IndexMiddle East Afghanistan


Khoshbeen (1970)[1] speaks of “[a] deliberate blindness toward sex and toward the oncoming manifestations of puberty” on the part of the child. Wilber (1962:p90-1)[2] relates that at age ten, “[…] or so, [the sexes] separate, […]. Although Afghan culture does not provide for a period of courtship nor for casual friendship among boys and girls of marriageable age, meetings between adolescent boys and girls do take place”. Cousin marriage is preferred. “Marriage is arranged by the family and among the townsmen is sometimes contracted between a boy as young as fifteen and a girl as young as twelve”; however, marriage usually is prolonged until the late teens or twenties. However, “A high proportion of marriages in Afghanistan involve girls below the legal age, according to reports from the Ministry of Women's Affairs and NGOs. As many as 57 percent involve young women under 16, some of them as young as nine”[3] [4]. In customary practice, a child promised in marriage before puberty would be given the right to refuse when she achieved majority. A 1921 family code banned child marriage[5] [6] [7]. In 1978, one of the first legislative acts of the new Marxist regime was Decree Number Seven, pertaining to child marriage[8]. In post-Taliban Afghanistan, according to a 2004 study[9], close to one third of Heart educated females were married before age 16. Girls are veiled at age 12[10].


In the celebrated 2003 film “Osama”[11], a 12-year-old Afghan girl and her mother lose their jobs when the Taliban closes the hospital where they work. The Taliban have also forbidden women to leave their houses without a male "legal companion." With her husband and brother dead, killed in battle, there is no one left to support the family. Without being able to leave the house, the mother is left with nowhere to turn. Feeling that she has no other choice, she disguises her daughter as a boy. Now called 'Osama,' the girl embarks on a terrifying and confusing journey as she tries to keep the Taliban from finding out her true identity. Inspired by a true story, Osama is the first entirely Afghan film shot since the fall of the Taliban.


Further reading:


§         Jama, A. (2003) Ashnas and Mehboobs; An Afghani Love Story, Trikone Mag6/30/2003; 18,2:6 [GenderWatch object]

§         Bancroft-Hinchey, T. (2002) Sodomy Returns to Afghanistan, Pravda 03-27

§         Bushell, A. (2002) Child Marriage in Afghanistan and Pakistan, America, 3/11/2002; 186,8:12 []

§         Baer, B. J. (2003) Kandahar: Closely Watched Pashtuns, Gay & Lesb Rev 10,2:25-7

§         McHarry, M. (2002, October) El Halekína en Afganistán - tres artículos de la prensa anglosajona sobre los pastunes [unpublished]




Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Oct. 2004




[1] Khoshbeen, A. M. (1970) Consequences of the absence of sex education in Afghanistan, Rev Neuropsychia Infant & D’Hyg Ment Enf 18,10-11:853-61

[2] Wilber, D. N. (1962) Afghanistan. New Haven: HRAF Press

[3]AFGHANISTAN: Child marriage rate still high – minister,, 13 Jul 2004 []

[4] In a 2001 UNICEF report the percentage of girls aged 15-19 who are already married was 54%. PRESS RELEASE CF/DOC/PR/2001-21, UNICEF: CHILD MARRIAGES MUST

STOP. UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, p2 []

[5]Afghanistan: Women and Reconstruction. ICG Asia Report No. 48, 14 March 2003, Kabul/Brussels, p4

[6] Brunet, A. & Helal, I. S. (September 2003) Seizing an Opportunity:  Afghan Women and the Constitution-Making Process. Rights & Democracy Mission Report. Annex 1 (Cheshmak Farhoumand-Sims30), p

[7] Rahim, T. (2002) An identity of strength/personal thoughts on women in Afghanistan, Int Rev Red Cross 84: 627-41, at p632 [$File/irrc_847_Rahim.pdf]

[8] Riphenburg, C. J. (2004) Post-TalibanAfghanistan: Changed Outlook for Women? Asian Survey 44,3:401-21

[9] Bahgam, S. & Mukhatari, W. (May 2004) Study on Child marriage in Afghanistan. medica mondiale e.V. []

[10] Furon, R. (1926) L’Afghanistan. Paris: Librairie Scientifique Albert Blanchard, p77

[11]Siddiq Barmak, United Artists, 2003,