We met Razia, a mother in her 30s from Herat, who was selling her daughter for £1,800 (approximately $2,600) to a buyer outside the courthouse. This was the second day Razia had done this, and she already had two other girls begging for money and had no idea where her other three daughters were.
For the last couple of years, Razia has lived in the city of Herat. Her daughter, one of her daughters, and the two other daughters are begging near the courthouse, where people can buy girls who have been sold by their families. It is illegal to sell a child in Afghanistan, but now the government does not make much effort to stop the sale of little girls. These girls have been divorced, but some families are so desperate to get rid of them, they are willing to sell them to buy more milk for their children.
Razia’s children are all orphans, but she never had them. When her two younger daughters died from malaria four years ago, she was left with no hope. She married her eldest daughter, who is now in her early 20s, to provide more income for her family. She says, “I am not going to get married again. I want my daughters to marry and be with good men, like when I was their age.” And, it was in hope of his children marrying, that she recently sold her daughter for £1,800. This is because Razia desperately needs to get the children enrolled in school.
Razia is one of thousands of women, especially widows, selling their children in Herat and her whole community knows about this. Raising children as a single mother requires many resources, and sometimes these resources cannot be found. This is where Razia comes in. She is a trader, buying and selling in the markets of Herat and, of course, selling little girls. She sometimes trades with locals, and sometimes with Afghan migrants who work in Europe, but every now and then, she will meet with buyers in Herat.
When the buyers ask her for a price, Razia tells them, “You have to come on my compound and take a walk in the open. Take a good look at my children. I will tell you later, after I have sold them.” To the locals, she sells them for fifty and sixty dollars. Then, once the payments are done, her girls sit with their faces down. While Razia shouts, and occasionally screams in anger, the buyers talk to the girls as if they had picked them up in their arms and brought them to them.
Click here to learn more about the Obama administration’s Doing Business in Afghanistan: What Every American Needs to Know.
Kevin Ellis is on the Afghanistan advisory council for The Heritage Foundation and Senior Director for Middle East and Africa at The Heritage Foundation.
He can be reached on Twitter @thcoopkevin