Opinion |Child marriage is a crime in South Sudan

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Dear compatriots, I’m deeply disturbed by the societal problem that always happen again and again in our motherland. The issue has been persistent since the ancient decades of our great grand-parents until now. We need to come together now as a nation and tackle this social issue for the good of our children. We cannot continue to keep silent while the situation demands our reaction and action. Child matrimony is a worldwide crisis in which underage children are forced to enter into a marriage without their consent. Child matrimony is an increasing issue within many African nations.

In South Sudan in particular, child matrimony is a growing problem and social crisis. Child marriage is a violation of females’ and children’s rights. The age range for these children to marry is between thirteenth and fifteenth. Although, eighteen is the legal age to marry, many cultural practices are placed higher than the actual underestimated nations. Marriages are granted approval with a parental agreement. Underage matrimony is an uncomfortable topic, yet it is practiced widely by the fathers of the families, in nations that experience poverty. This happens in order to have financial stability through dowry, the increase in bride price, and the eradication out of poverty.

Child matrimony does not only apply to young girls; it also has its impacts on young males as well. In many African nations such as South Sudan. child marriage is related to girls. Child matrimony is usually pertaining to the bond between a child and an adult. Moreover, studies estimated that, in 2017 in South Sudan, 52% of girls are married off before the age of 18. 9% are married before they turn 15. South Sudan is the 5th highest nation in the world for child marriage. It is particularly prevalent in the Upper Nile, Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal regions, predominantly among pastoralist areas where economic activity and culture is significantly related to the cattle.

Furthermore, the common age range of children who are forced into marriage is from fourteen years old to sixteenth years old. Many children are married off under the age of fifteenth. In South Sudan, a child is someone who is not capable of having kids. Therefore, a child has begun her monthly period, puberty and can produce children is an adult. The discrepancy of what a child is consider to be is an issue today. Many communities and families across South Sudan do not always allow their children to marry men from other communities simply because of the significance of the symbolism and traditional aspects of their culture. A girl value always depends on her beauty and age.

This means that the younger in age the girl is, the higher her value increases. This makes it easier for the girl to be married off. The older the girl is, the more difficult it is for her to find marriage. Because this has been a myth that has been preached and believed for centuries. Child matrimony in South Sudan commonly happens in upcountry and not very often in urban centers. In upcountry, traditional law has power over legislative law. The decision of a child to get married is put into action by the father. A mother does not have any say in regards with decisions that are supposed to benefit the family. A child that is married off is only for economic motives and its elevate the family social status in the society as it is the common assumption in South Sudan.

additionally, child marriages need to be criminalize completely in South Sudan. we cannot sacrifice our children’s futures just because of dowry. In addition to that, there are many problems with underage marriages, health problems in rural areas are not treated properly which results in infections and death. Early pregnancies of underage children always lead to birth complications during birth time. The suffering of underage children is not taken into consideration because of the social status that womenfolk in South Sudan hold. They are assumed to be inferior to men in many things. Underage children’s health is a major concern. When underage girls go into labor, they are taken to the hospital if strenuous problems arise. If not, they’re expected to deliver their children in unsterilized places. Maternal health care services are very limited in South Sudan.  additionally, families also marry their children off at a young age to make sure that their daughters have protection and security. It is very wrong to do such things just because of protection, security and dowry.

We need to alter that mindset. There are many health repercussions that spiral from a child giving birth at a young age. Children who are younger than the age of eighteenth are more likely to die due to aggressive birth whereas older women will be okay in most cases. Young children who deliver babies are subjected to diseases and many health related issues that can prevent them from conceiving another child. Furthermore, children who marry at a tender age are typically not educated. They cannot use any education as an outlet to get out of abusive relationships and start their lives afresh.

These children grow up taking the inferior role in the household and are forced to obey their partners without questioning anything that may not seem good to them in marriage. Moreover, child brides are sheltered from their community and are not allowed to participate in communal events. Child brides who run away from their husbands are subjected to violence in the form of physical beatings, sexual assault and marriage.

Finally, the civil society, youth, women group, concerned citizens, humanitarian organizations and government need to come together and work hard to eradicate underage children’s marriages in South Sudan. we need to consider that underage children need to be in school and acquire education so that they can become responsible members of the society in the future. We need to let our underage children mature first before they get marriage and together we can raise better and healthy children and families in South Sudan.

The author is a women’s right activist. She can be reached via: bettyyom2009@gmail.com

The views expressed in the ‘OPINIONS & ANALYSIS’ section of the Sudans Post are solely the opinions of the writers. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not this website. If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email us here.

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