A 14-year-old girl from the Palestinian city of Hebron has escaped child marriage and sought refuge with Israeli border police after being sold to an Israeli Bedouin man 20 years her elder, Haaretz reports.
The girl, whose name was not released, is currently in hiding as the Justice Ministry’s anti-human trafficking unit investigates her case, according to reports.
The girl was reportedly sold for NIS 10,000, or about $2,800, according to Times of Israel. Her father also routinely abused her, according to relatives.
“The girl grew up in a bad place for children, she grew up in a harsh environment,” a relative told Haaretz, a left-leaning Israeli magazine. “Her father beat her all her life and afterwards sold her like property to a husband, who also beat her and did terrible things to her.”
The Times of Israel reports that the man has been accused of rape, as well as physical and emotional abuse, and his case has been remanded to a magistrate court in Beersheba. His attorney has said the man believed the marriage to be “legitimate” and “was shown a presentation according to which she was 17-years-old.”
The legal age for marriage in Israel was raised from 17 to 18 in 2014, according to Haaretz. Still, around 4,500 Israelis are married before the age of 18 each year, 90% of whom are girls, according to an op-ed penned in the Jerusalem Post by Ruth Halperin-Kaddari.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has reported that roughly one in four girls in Gaza are married before the age of 18.
Global Citizen campaigns for governments around the world to address child marriage and sexual violence against women and girls. The advocacy group Girls Not Brides estimates that there could be 1.2 million women married before the age of 18 by 2050; currently 700 million women were married as children. You can take action here.
According to Dina Dominitz, head of the Israeli justice ministry’s anti-human trafficking unit, Israel provides care to between 50 and 80 trafficking victims each year. And for now, the justice ministry will have one more girl to care for.
“She’s a brave girl. She’s been through so much in her life and has seen more that she should have,” the relative said. “The time has come for her to have an decent life.”