When Khadija, 13, and Basgol, 14, escaped from the much older men they'd been forced to marry, they thought the police would help. Instead, the police officers who found the girls fleeing on a bus sent them back to their home village to be brutally flogged for running away from their husbands. The two girls' fate is nothing unusual in Afghanistan, where marriage of girls under 16 and public flogging—though both illegal—remain widespread.
The girls' flogging was videotaped, and after failed efforts to win government action to protect girls, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission released the tape. The incident is only the latest example of the Afghan government's inability—or unwillingness--to tackle forced marriages of child brides, human rights activists allege. Floggings aren't the only punishment girls face. Some girls report being routinely beaten, fed rat poison by their husbands, and forced to become suicide bombers, according to New York Times reporters who visited a shelter for escaped child brides in Kabul. Others have been killed by their fathers for fleeing their husbands.