Three years ago, at age 15, Maftuna’s parents married her off to an older man she had never met. Today she is an 18-year-old single mother living in with her parents in a suburb of Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city.
“My husband turned me out of his house with our two children,” Maftuna (not her real name) told EurasiaNet.org, breaking into tears. Her children are now aged two years and six months.
Given her young age, she says, she was unable to satisfy his sexual needs. “I did not know what to do to please him at night; sometimes he beat me badly. Then he started having affairs, and finally we got divorced. I am all broken and have totally lost interest in life. Who would want a young divorced woman with two children?”
Kyrgyzstan’s minimum legal marriage age is 18. But since the fall of the Soviet Union, weddings increasingly have been performed by Islamic clergy in a ceremony known as nikaah that is often not registered with the state. Because the marriages fall outside of state control, there is no oversight to ensure the bride and groom are of legal age.
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Hamid Tursunov is a freelance writer based in Osh.