Child marriages in South Sudan, worryingly on the increase

Child marriage remains one of the most crucial and severe issues in many countries, especially in those of the developing world. According to the United Nations Population Fund, between 2011 and 2020, more than 140 million girls will be forced into child marriage. One of the countries that are mostly affected by child marriage is South Sudan. The recent Human Rights Watch report warns that almost half (48 percent) of South Sudanese girls between 15 and 19 years are married, based on the 2006 Sudan Household Health Survey, with even some girls as young as 12 when they are married. Child marriage in South Sudan is seen as a means for improving the financial gains of the family; accessing resources such as money and cattle whilst preventing pre-marital sexual relations and pregnancies through the practice of transferring wealth via the payment of dowries. It is sometimes also thought of as a way of reducing the risk of sexual violence for young Sudanese girls. The practice of child marriage irreparably violates the fundamental human right to education, renders young girls extremely vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual abuse, can be a cause for increased mortality rates, impedes their life potential and puts their physical and mental health in danger. Some of the risks include early pregnancy, child bearing and motherhood and possible HIV infection. According to the UN, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the main causes of death for young girls aged 15-19 years in developing countries. ‘Child marriage is an appalling violation of human rights and robs girls of their education, health and long-term prospects’, says Babatunde Osotimehin,...