An Afghan religious leader has been jailed after marrying a six-year-old child, in the latest case highlighting the scourge of child marriages in the war-torn country.
Cleric Mohammad Karim defended the marriage in a radio interview, claiming the child was a “religious offering” and given to him as a “gift”.
“The girl was given to me as a gift and we were married so I could raise her. After the parents gave their daughter to me, they said, ‘You can take her wherever you want,’” the mature mullah told the Daily Express.
The girl is being looked after in a woman’s shelter in an undisclosed village in central Afghan province of Ghor, according to The Telegraph.
The child’s parents claim their daughter was kidnapped from Herat province, which borders Iran, in June.
The arrest comes just weeks after a 14-year-old pregnant girl was burned to death in Ghor over a marriage deal that went sour.
The legal age of marriage in Afghanistan for women is 16 years, but under sharia law children can be married with the permission of their father or grandfather.
According to Save the Children, 15 per cent of Afghan women under 50 were married before their 15th birthday and almost half were married before the age of 18.