There are many conditions a girl needs to meet before marrying her abuser: a family that accepts her, documents from Islamic jurists stating her consent is mandatory, and adult legal consent from a male.
The hardest part for the victim is making a decision that will, in some way, forgive the violence and hatred that has shattered her young life.
“This is the point of no return,” said Ekmella Meruni, an Islamic jurist in the Pakistani city of Multan who, with her husband, IS Await, works to aid the wives of child brides.
A woman named Ghazala was abducted as a teen by a 20-year-old relative, married at the age of 17, and is still often asked about by other women, Meruni said.
“In society, the victims are still blamed for what happened. We cannot let them slip through our fingers anymore,” she said.
Other professionals like social workers and psychologists agree that during the couple’s half-dozen sessions, which the girl cannot refuse, she must agree to erase the child’s marriage papers, and enter into a legal marital union with a new husband.
“When I had my last conversation with her, I was shocked. I asked her to have mercy on her husband and seek forgiveness for him. I remember how she tried to find excuses so that she could go on with her life,” Meruni said.
Many societies do not value women or tolerate or even accept the female body, said Bangladeshi social worker Mangi Mia.
“When I spoke to a 14-year-old who had been married at the age of 10, the parents told me that if the child recanted the marriage, she would be killed by them,” she said.
Mia’s group helped extract a divorce from one bride after demanding a dowry from her suitor’s family.
On the sideline of the second Women’s Rights Day in the world Wednesday, human rights groups called for national and international efforts to keep girls from forced marriages.
Activists said the majority of perpetrators of such child marriages are Muslims, and that the conflict-ravaged area where they happen in Pakistan is the most dangerous place in the world for a girl to be sold into marriage.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.