Girl beaten to death by brothers for refusing to marry man who offered family 40 cows

'The patriarchal practice of forcing young girls and women to marry is a cruel manifestation of the large inequality between men and women in South Sudan. Women and girls are treated as communal commodities,' says campaigner

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Tuesday 30 April 2019 08:09
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Girl beaten to death by brothers for refusing to marry man who offered family 40 cows

A young woman in South Sudan has been beaten to death by her brothers for refusing to marry a suitor who is said to have offered her family 40 cows as dowry.

Taban Abel, a state minister in Sudan, said the 20-year-old was punished by her brothers in the town of Yirol in Eastern Lakes State because she turned down a marriage proposal from a suitor her family had chosen.

Mr Abel, Minister of Information in Eastern Lakes, told Radio Tamazuj that Nyaluk Magorok’s parents forced the girl to marry a man who offered 40 cows to the family as dowry – an amount of property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage.

He said the man allegedly responsible for the girl’s death had been arrested to face murder charges – adding that the girl’s father had also been jailed to face the law.

“The father was [the] one who ordered people to kill his daughter because she refused to get married,” he said.

He condemned the killing and said forced marriage continues to be a challenge in the state.

The official added: “This is a barbaric act that needs immediate intervention from the government. This is the second incident of its kind because last year a girl was impregnated and then her father beat her to death”.

Many families in South Sudan forcibly marry off their daughters for dowry – including girls who are under the age of 18. In November 2018, a girl aged between 16 and 17 was forcibly married after a controversial auction on Facebook.

Some 52 per cent of South Sudanese girls are married by the time they are 18, according to a 2017 UNICEF study.

Article 15 of the South Sudan constitution stipulates that any person of marriageable age has the right to form a family and Article 17 guarantees women and girls the right to consent to marriage.

Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes Region, said forcing someone to marry against their will is a clear violation of South Sudan’s own constitution as well as its international human rights obligations.

“The marriage and killing are not only illegal, but also inhumane. We call on the government to immediately hold the responsible individuals to account,” he added.

“The patriarchal practice of forcing young girls and women to marry is a cruel manifestation of the large inequality between men and women in South Sudan. Rather than being resourceful and inspirational leaders and members of society, women and girls are treated as communal commodities.”

Amnesty is calling on the government of South Sudan to take urgent steps to end early, forced and child marriage and make sure those perpetrating this “heinous form of gender-based violence” and violating the country’s laws are brought to justice. The organisation said women and girls’ rights must be protected.

Judy Gitau, of Equality Now, a non government organisation that aims to promote the rights of women and girls, said: "Women and girls who are subjected to forced and child marriage are already victims of gross violations of their rights, and face the risk of further physical, sexual, and emotional violence. These violations are often visited on the next generation.

"South Sudan must end the tradition of selling daughters into marriage and end with finality this cycle of violations.”

The Co-ordinator for Equality Now's Africa office added: "The government needs to strengthen existing laws aimed at ending child and forced marriages, and engage with local authorities and community leaders to eliminate this form of gender-based violence."

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