Saturday, March 28, 2009

Child Exploitation: “I poured kerosene…and set myself on fire. I wanted to die” the words of a 14 year old child bride in Chad

Mariam, 14, victim of child marriage

Mariam, 14, was forced to marry a man of over 60 in Guelendeng, 150 km south of the Chadian capital N'Djamena. Desperate, she told IRIN that she tried to commit suicide by self-immolation. Saved by her neighbours, Mariam spent more than one year in the hospital and said she now lives in fear that her father will send her back to her husband.

"When I was 12 years old, a young man came to see my parents and said he wanted to marry me. I agreed and so did my mother, but my father’s second wife, who also had a daughter, convinced my father he should marry her instead, and my father should give me to another man.

"Another man then came to marry me, he was very old and I did not want to marry him. But my father agreed with him directly and married me off anyway. I fled my parents’ house; I went to my older sister, but one of my older brothers brought me back to my father.

"After the wedding, my husband told me he wanted me to sleep at his house. When I told my father I did not want to, he locked me in the house and left me there. I was so shocked and angry that I poured kerosene on my genitals and the front of my body and set myself on fire. I wanted to die.

"The neighbours heard my cries. They thought my father was beating me and because the door was locked, they broke it down and entered. I was already burned when they found me. They called my father and when he saw me with my burns he hit me and said there was nothing left for me but to die.

“It was the military brigade commander who came to fetch me and take me to hospital.

"I spent seven months in hospital Guelendeng and another seven months in hospital in N'Djamena. I suffered a lot - I just wanted to heal. My stomach, my genitals and my thighs were completely burned. At first my family looked after me – they sent me money. But after a while, they stopped coming, and my father stopped sending money. He never came to see me.

"After the hospital I was sent back to my parents’ house, where I remain today. I do petty trade to get by. My father still refuses to let me divorce. People [women from Guelendeng and the Association for the Promotion of Basic Freedoms or APLFT], try to talk to him, but he wants me to return to my husband. I do not want to. I’m scared. I don’t know what will become of me.”

Disclaimer:This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
Photo: Copyright IRIN
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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