If you thought forced marriages are a thing of the past, think again. A shocking tale of Pokot girls as young as 14 years old being forced into marriage has gone viral. International media, among them Daily Mail Online and Reuters reported that the young women were dragged away from their village in a ‘traditional’ tribal wedding ceremony.
This is the heartbreaking moment when the young Pokot girls are forced into arranged marriages for a dowry of livestock as part of a traditional ceremony which marks their passing into womanhood.
Clad in tribal jewellery and with their hair tied up in braids, some of the women can be seen struggling as they are hauled away, ‘traded’ by their fathers for 20 goats, three camels, and ten cows.
Many of the girls, who are members of the Pokot tribe, are not aware they have been bargained away until their husbands come to collect them after spending a month in isolation before the ceremony takes place.
One of the Pokot girls is pictured trying to escape after being sold as a bride by her parents in return for a dowry of livestock. Apparently, the girls are isolated from the village for a month before the ritual takes place.
One local is quoted saying they had deliberately kept the arranged marriage from their daughter for fear she would run away if she found out.
Often their parents will keep the details of the marriage hidden for fear that their daughter will run away if she finds out about the deal they have made.
As part of the ritual, which lasts a day and night, the village men will also select a bull from the herd of cows which the women will punch into submission before it is executed with a spear-thrust to the heart.
This particular ceremony took place in the bush around 30 miles (50km) from the town of Marigat in Baringo County which is home to around 133,000 plains Pokot.
It’s amazing, the practice goes on despite Kenyan law forbidding childhood marriage. During the ceremony the girls will sing and stay standing from the afternoon through out the night and the morning after. At the end of the ceremony, the girls and the boys of the community dance together, supervised by elders.
The Pokot people are also known to practice female genital mutilation, a practice whereby parts of a woman’s sexual organs are removed using scissors, a razor blade, or glass before they are sewn up and have their legs bound together until the wounds heal.
The tradition is carried out at a much younger age than the forced marriages, in the belief it will help to keep the girls pure until the time comes for them to undergo the ceremony that will see them become women.
However, as the ceremonies are usually carried out by unskilled quack doctors operating miles from any hospital and with no anesthetic or antibiotics, deaths are common due to blood loss or infection.
—Additional reporting from Mail Online and Reuters