UNICEF Photo of Year Shows Child Marriage in Afghanistan

The image of an eleven-year-old girl with her forty-year-old fiancé has been named photo of the year by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The image, which was taken by American photographer Stephanie Sinclair in Afghanistan, shows future husband and wife Mohammed and Ghulam. According to a statement by UNICEF, the parents told Sinclair that they gave her daughter for marriage because, they say, "We needed the money."

Asked what she felt about the engagement, Ghulam said, "Nothing. I do not know this man. What am I supposed to feel?"

The United Nations estimates that 50 percent of Afghan women are married before they reach the age of 18.

According to UNICEF, child marriage is a worldwide problem:

"Worldwide there are about 51 million girls aged between 15 and 19 years who are forced into marriage," UNICEF said in a press release. "The youngest brides live in the Indian state of Rajasthan, where 15% of all wives are not even 10 years old when they are married."

UNICEF said that the practice is "a reaction to extreme poverty and mainly take place in Asian and African regions where poor families see their daughters as a burden and as second-class citizens."

"The UNICEF Photo of the Year 2007 raises awareness about a worldwide problem. Millions of girls are married while they are still under age," said UNICEF Patroness Eva Luise Köhler, according to a press release. "Most of theses child brides are forever denied a self-determined life."

Other images winning awards were G.M.B. Akrash's photograph of child laborers in Bangladesh, and Harmut Schwartzbuch's image of a nine-year-old girl living at the edge of a massive garbage dump in the Philippines.

The UNICEF Photo of the Year award honors photographs that "picture the personality and situation of children around the world." UNICEF was created by the United Nations General Assembly in 1946, and was originally tasked with providing health care and food relief in countries recovering in the aftermath of World War II. Today, it provides humanitarian assistance to children in developing nations.

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    I am disgusted. This is child predatory abuse. A person should be old enough to make up their own mind when, who and where to marry. It’s a sad fact that global hunger, unemployment and gender discrimination forces some families to sell their children into slavery.