14-year-old Aberash was walking home from school when a group of horsemen thundered across the plain and kidnapped her. They beat her up, forced her over the back of a horse and took her to a hut where she was raped by a 28-year-old farmer. Only afterwards did she realise that the man who had taken her virginity by force now considered himself to be her husband.
In Ethiopia’s Wild South, when a man wants a bride he goes out and kidnaps one. It’s common practice for him to keep her hidden, raping her repeatedly till she’s pregnant. Then he can approach her family and arrange the marriage contract. Marriage by abduction has been going on so long that no-one can remember how it all began.
When Aberash was abducted, her older sister was already married by abduction, ruining her chance to run for her country at the Olympic Games. Now she lives with her husband and four small children in a tiny hovel from which they are scraping a living selling home-brewed liquor.
After she was raped Aberash thought about her older sister and made her mind up. She managed to steal a gun and escape. When her “husband” gave chase she fired in warning. He ignored her. Fearing for her future, Aberash aimed, fired and killed. She was arrested and charged with murder.
Now she is on trial for her life.
Aberash was the first girl to resist centuries of deeply-entrenched, male-dominated culture. The outcome of her trial will be crucial, not just for Aberash but for the future of teenage girls throughout Ethiopia.
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