In eastern Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, the notion has become ingrained, for some reason, that women are the possession of men -- fathers, husbands, sons, or other male relations when necessary. Thus, it only stands to reason that possessions can be bartered, traded or sold according to their value:
The sale and exchange of women as goods is rampant in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province with as many as two women traded per day, according to the findings of a sociology researcher.
In a report obtained by TOLOnews, researcher Assadullah Ahmadi stated that he found some women had been traded up to five times in three Nangarhar districts – Rodat, Mohmand, and Shinwar – as part of the socially-accepted use of wives and daughters as possessions.
"It is [happening] in Mohmand and Rodat, and all of the Shinwar, and the spot of sale is the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan," Ahmadi said.
"This is a society where its clerics speak out against Nowruz, against new year, and almost anything else. But we see that the average of women sold in Nangarhar is two per day," he added, suggesting that the Islamic clerics were ignoring the practice.
In his report, Ahmadi says that the eastern Afghan women were often sold across the border into Pakistan and usually for less than the cost of a mule.
"There are even women that have been sold three to five times and in some cases sold along with their daughters. When we went to them, we came to know their price is less than a mule," he said.
Where does Islam stand on this? It can be confusing, because apparently some clerics do speak against the practice, but the question would be, Why? Are they saying that Islam forbids it? Or that it harms the women? The latter would be a compassionate argument, but it doesn't undermine the authority which is contained in Islam, and which is not ordered to the feelings of women. In fact, one Islamic tradition even allows for a form of prostitution that allows "temporary marriage" for a price.
"There is no doubt that women are being sold, and for three reasons: past practices, poverty, and illiteracy. The women whose husbands doubt them, the women that are not liked by their husbands, and the women whose husbands are poor are sold. However they are not sold as servants but they do the Nikah," said Dai-ul-Haq Abed, deputy minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs.
The Nikah is the temporary or fixed-term marriage allowed in Islam under certain conditions.
"In a discussion with the Hajj and Religious Affairs of Shinwar, they told us that it's a very ingrained trend. We have tried to work on this issue through Islamic means. The phenomenon is decreasing but not eradicated," Abed added.
"Through Islamic means" is tricky, because, traditionally, Islam has allowed such practices, women are to be cared for by men, and marriage is not defined at all like it is in the Christian world. Instead of being a lifelong union between one man and one woman, Islam's allowance for polygamy and no-fault divorce (instigated by husbands only) make the place of women extremely precarious. Their stability is in the hands of men, not religious texts.
"The selling of women has been out there in the past and now. One who overlooks this matter, overlooks the truth," said Mofti Moeen Shah, a member of the provincial council.
"In our tribe of Shinwari, they do it [sell women] when the husband dies," he added.
According to the council, aside from being traded for money, girls as young as 5 years old are given as compensation to victims of crimes committed by the girl's family member or to settle debts. After receiving a girl, the person will often sell her and keep the money.
"In districts of Nangarhar, there are married women between ages of 16 to 80 who are sold when either her husband needs money or wants to marry another girl," said Angiza Shinwari, a member of the provincial council.
"This practice has been done for years now, and it has recently increased because there is no rule of law and there is no punishment of the criminals," she added.
Although Islam is accepted in the pantheon of great religions, it has to account for what its adherents believe about the value of women:
4:34 “ Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other and because they support them from their means.
"Protection" of a person would obviously differ from the protection of a possession, and yet it's the personhood of women that is of paramount concern here.