Child marriage in South Sudan

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Child marriage is a worldwide phenomenon, in which children are forced to enter into a marriage bond. Child marriage is an increasing problem within many African countries. In South Sudan, child marriage is a growing epidemic. Child Marriage is a violation of women's and children's rights. The age range for these children to marry is between the age of twelve and eighteen. Although, 18 is the legal age to marry, many cultural practices are placed higher that the actual law in underrepresented countries. Marriages are granted approval with a parental consent. Underage marriage is an uncomfortable topic, yet it is practiced widely by the Fathers of the families, in countries that experience poverty. This happens in order to have financial stability through dowry, the increase in bride price, and the alleviation out of poverty.

Child marriage does not only to pertain to young girls, it also has its affects on young boys. In many African Countries, like South Sudan, child marriage is related to girls. Child marriage usually pertains to the bond between a child and an adult.

Current figures[edit]

In 2017 in South Sudan, 52% of girls are married off before the age of 18 yo. 9% are married before they turn 15.[1] South Sudan is the 5th highest nation in the world for child marriage.[1]

While child marriage is widely practiced, it's particularly prevalent in the Lakes State and Bahr el Ghazal regions, predominantly ethnic Dinka pastoralist areas where cattle carry economic and cultural importance.[2]

Age and initiation[edit]

The common age range of children who are forced into marriage is from fifteen years old to eighteen years old. Many children are married off under the age of fifteen. In South Sudan, a child is someone who is not capable of having children. Therefore, a child who has begun her menstrual cycle, puberty, and can produce children is an adult.[3] The discrepancy of what a child is, considered to be is a problem today. Families in South Sudan do not allow their children to marry men from other tribes, due to the significance of the symbolism and traditional aspects of the culture. A girls value depends on her age. This means that the younger in age the women is the, higher her value increases. This makes it easier for the girl to be married off. The older the women is the more difficult it is for her to find marriage. The older a women gets the less value she is to a marriage.[4]

Child Marriage in South Sudan is commonly seem in rural parts of the country and not in urban areas. In these parts, traditional law has power over legislative law. The decision of a child to get married is put into action by the Father. The Mother does not have any say in regards with decisions that are supposed to benefit the family. A child that is married off is solely for economic reasons. This increases the Families status in the society. When girls are married to the man that is courting them, the family is generously awarded with gifts in the form of Dowry. Dowry is one of the most important factors that coincide with child marriage. Dowry is given out in the form of cattle which shows great respect to the family. The man that the child is being married off to supplies the family with cattle and riches to show his appreciation. In many cases, these rewards alleviates the family of hardships in the form of poverty. The idea of dowry is also related to the women's education. The more educated the women is, the more value she has and the more dowry her family gets.

An educated women is said to be a suitable marriage partner by many men in South Sudan. Yet, when a women's educated is taken from her, she has no other option. A girl can also be seen a problem or burden to her family if she is not married off.[5] The more dowry a family has, the more wealth and status they hold. Girls who have had many years of higher education are not as likely to get married as children.[6]

Bride price[edit]

Child Marriages are some of the most expensive marriages. Bride price is similar to that of Dowry. The more value that a child has, the more money a man has to pay for her.[5] Bride price is related to a man's status. When a man does not find wife, his value and standing in society goes down. When bride price inflation happens, young men will not be able to afford marriage. Without an income, young men are not worth anything and cannot purchase a wife.[7]


Many health problems are related to children who are forced into a marriage. Health problems in rural places are not treated sanitarily which results in infections and death. Early pregnancies are not treated as they should. The toll on the girls body is not taken into consideration because of the status that women in South Sudan hold. They are inferior to men.[5] Sanitation is a major problem. When girls go into labor, they are only taken to the hospital if strenuous problems arise. If not, they are expected to deliver their children in unsterilized places. Maternal health care services is very limited in underrepresented countries. A women's labor can be stretched out if she has been found to be unfaithful to the man that she forced to marry. The child will not be allowed to be born unless the women tells her husband who she has had relations with.


The cause of child marriage is for the family of the child pride to remain good social standing and to have financial prosperity. This tradition is upheld by the families in order to keep their children safe and to prevent their daughter from conceiving children without being married. This idea protects the families pride and honor. Families who do not give their children up for marriage are usually criticized by the neighboring communities and are shown scrutiny. It is easier for the families to follow what everyone else is participating in. Families also marry their children off at a young age to make sure that their daughters have protection and security.


There are many health consequences that spiral from a child giving birth at a young age. Children who are younger than the age of 18 are more likely to die do to aggressive birth whereas an older women will be okay. Young children who deliver babies are subject to diseases and many health related problems that can prevent them from conceiving another child.[8] Furthermore, children who marry at a young age are typically not educated. They cannot use their education as an outlet to get out of abusive relationships. These children grow up taking the inferior role in the household and are forced to obey their husbands. 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 subject to violence in the form of physical beatings, sexual assault, and marriage.[9]


  1. ^ a b "Child marriage around the world: SOUTH SUDAN", Girls Not Brides
  2. ^ Associated Press (29 August 2017), Child marriage increasing in civil war-torn South Sudan, News24
  3. ^ Mutiso, Joyce (July 2012). "Child Marriage in Lakes State, South Sudan: Looking through the Social Norms Lens" (PDF).
  4. ^ Mutiso, Joyce. "Child Marriage in Lakes State, South Sudan: Looking through the Social Norms Lens" (PDF).
  5. ^ a b c "Tahirih – Forced Marriage Initiative Forced Marriage Overseas: South Sudan". Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  6. ^ "A Note on Child Marriage" (PDF). Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  7. ^ Hudson, Valerie. "In Plain Sight: The Neglected Linkage between Brideprice and Violent Conflict".
  8. ^ "A Note on Child Marriage" (PDF). July 2012.
  9. ^ "A Note on Child Marriage" (PDF). July 2012.