Young girls in South Sudan will continue paying serious consequences if the government doesn’t ban child marriage, Oxfam warns.
The humanitarian organization published its latest report, “Born to be Married,” on Monday. It shows South Sudan’s child marriage rate has increased significantly as a result of the country’s ongoing civil war, leading girls to miss school and become targets for sexual and domestic violence.
In South Sudan’s northern town Nyal, 70% of girls are married before the age of 18, which is much higher than the pre-civil war rate of 45%. Oxfam also found 1 in 10 girls in Nyal are married before the age of 15.
Another generation of girls in #SouthSudan will miss an education, face huge health risks in childbirth & are more likely to face sexual and domestic violence, if efforts to #EndChildMarriage are not stepped up.— Oxfam International (@Oxfam) February 19, 2019
Read our new report: https://t.co/hV7GVEnrWF#GirlsNotBridespic.twitter.com/XFkSrq0NsA
Poverty and hunger in the aftermath of conflict are surpassing tradition as the driving force behind South Sudan’s child marriage rate, according to the report. The increased risk of sexual violence, despite a 2018 peace agreement, also plays a role. Of the women and girls Oxfam interviewed, 84% of them said they experienced or sexual violence between married couples.
Child marriage is seen in many parts of the country as a way to protect young girls from premarital sex and unwanted pregnancies. Elysia Buchanan, Oxfam’s policy adviser in South Sudan, said desperate parents are marrying off their young daughters in hopes of receiving a dowry, but child marriage actually makes it more difficult for women and their families to break out of poverty.
In South Sudan, three-quarters of girls are out of school, primarily because they entered a child marriage. Child brides who stop attending school are more likely to experience early pregnancy, pregnancy complications, malnourishment, and domestic violence.
“The girls in Nyal want to go to school, play, learn a skill, and make a difference in their community,” Oxfam’s Buchanan wrote.
“They need the support of South Sudan’s leaders, international donors, and humanitarian agencies to help them achieve the future they deserve — most importantly, they need sustained and long term peace across their country,” she urged.
Oxfam hopes with more funding for community-led initiatives that help combat gender-based violence and child marriage, girls and their families in South Sudan will receive the education they need to overcome the current state of conflict.
If you have experienced sexual abuse, call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access the 24-7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org. You can find international resources here.