When she was 8 years old, Shakila was abducted by men with AK-47s, who beat her, starved her, put her to work, and intended to force her to bear children. Why? Because her uncle had run off with the wife of a local strongman, and that strongman had demanded payment. Handing over girls into de facto slavery, a practice known as "baad," is technically illegal in Afghanistan, but it's still widely used as a way to resolve disputes between families, in part because people avoid corrupt official courts, the New York Times reports.
Baad is illegal under Islamic law, too, but it predates Islam. It's seen as a way to bind two families that might otherwise fight a blood feud, but women's rights activists say the girls traded are usually treated horribly, as symbols of the offending family. "They tortured us in a way that no human being would treat another," says Shakila, now 10, who eventually escaped, and with her family fled the area. Her family had always opposed her abduction, because she'd been betrothed as an infant, and hence was another man's property. "We do not mind giving girls," her father says. "But she was not mine to give." (Read more Baad stories.)