Human Rights Watch: Child marriage in South Sudan

Widespread child marriage exacerbates South Sudan’s pronounced gender gaps in school enrolment, contributes to soaring maternal mortality rates, and violates the right of girls to be free from violence, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on 7 March 2013, on the eve of International Women’s Day.

Human Rights Watch, a member of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, called on the government of South Sudan to increase efforts to protect girls from child marriage.

The 95-page report, “‘This Old Man Can Feed Us, You Will Marry Him:’ Child and Forced Marriage in South Sudan,” documents the consequences of child marriage, the near total lack of protection for victims who try to resist marriage or leave abusive marriages, and the many obstacles they face in accessing mechanisms of redress. It is based on interviews with 87 girls and women in Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, and Jonglei states, as well as with government officials, traditional leaders, health care workers, legal and women’s rights experts, teachers, prison officials, and representatives of nongovernmental organisations, the United Nations, and donor organisations.

Meet some of the girls they talked to:

Helen, married at 15

“I didnt go to school. No one could pay my school fees. What was there to do if I had stayed at home? The only thing left to do was to get married”

Mary, married at 15

“He slapped me in the face to prevent me from leaving and I fell down. That’s when he removed an axe from under the mattress and slapped me with it. He wanted to hit me on the head with the axe”

Akuot, 16 

“[My uncle] said he would take me to the cattle camp and find a man with many cows to marry me. I didnt like his proposal. I said no no I wont go (…) One day my uncles ambushed me and beat me up. They dragged me to a hut. There they locked me up for three days. They tied my hands and legs up with electric cables”.

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