August 20, 2020
By Abdi Sheikh
Hafsa was married off at 13 by her father to a man who paid $100. She and her mother say she was beaten and raped for two years before they convinced him to divorce her.
“The man just slept with me, beating me always,” she said, sitting by her mother, who clutches her daughter tightly. “I regretted I was born.”
There is no law mandating a minimum age for marriage in Somalia. A bill introduced in parliament this month by a presidential ally caused a storm of criticism from lawmakers when they realised it would legalise marriage at puberty – as early as 10 for some girls.
Data from a government survey this year shows that nearly a third of girls are married before their 18th birthday – just under half of those before the age of 15.
“Some families marry off their daughters to reduce their economic burden or earn income. Others may do so because they believe it will secure their daughters’ futures or protect them,” said Dheepa Pandian, a spokeswoman from UNICEF, the United Nations’ Children’s Fund.
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