20th March 2019
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Girls ‘born to be married’ in Panyijiar

Author: Rosemary Wilfred | Published: 4 weeks ago

A girl crosses the swamps in Nyal | Credit | Andreea Campaneau/Oxfam

The rate of early and forced marriage in Nyal – an area located in Panyijiar County of former Unity State, is among some of the highest in the world, a research by Oxfam has found.

Nyal borders some of the areas most affected by the five-year conflict.

According to the report, an estimated 71% of girls in Nyal, are married before the age of 18, a significantly higher rate than the national pre-conflict average of 45%.

The research, titled, Born to be Married, also reveals that 10% of girls and women in Nyal are married before the age of 15.

This has been attributed to conflict-fueled poverty and food insecurity as the most common reasons for families to marry off their young daughters.

Additionally, girls displaced by conflict were considered at greater risk of being married before 18.

The research further revealed that, the increased threats of sexual violence and breakdown of rule of law – including respect for traditional authority and customs – were also linked to child, early and forced marriages in Nyal.

Elysia Buchanan, Oxfam’s policy adviser in South Sudan, said: “Rising poverty and hunger following five years of vicious civil war are driving families to desperation, with many parents marrying off their young daughters for a dowry in order to survive.”

In its recommendations, Oxfam calls on the government to fully implement its Strategic National Action Plan to End Child Marriage and invest transparently in addressing its drivers and consequences.

The report also recommends the review of the legal framework – working with customary judges and local authorities – to enact a harmonized law on child, early and forced marriages that is effectively implemented and enforced.

As an additional measure, Oxfam reiterated calls to the parties to honor the quota of at least 35% representation for women’ participation, including appointing women in key positions of leadership and influence.

It further appealed to the government to provide and expand space for South Sudanese civil society and media, and encourage their meaningful engagement in issues of women’s empowerment and addressing sexual and gender-based violence, including child and forced marriages.

Oxfam researchers gathered data through focus group discussions involving community members and nearly 200 women and adolescent girls in the area.