A new report on child marriage has revealed that more than 1,500 teenage girls have been married off or impregnated in South Sudan since April this year.
This is according to the Support Peace Development Initiative Organization, SPIDO.
The civil society group launched the report in Juba in which it identified poverty as the main reason some parents force their girls into marriages with the hope of getting dowry.
It also attributed the 1,535 cases of child marriages and teenage pregnancies to the closure of schools.
South Sudan shut down schools in mid-March as a preventive measure against the coronavirus pandemic.
SPIDO found alarming rates of early child marriages, pregnancies, and prostitution mainly in Eastern, Central, and Western Equatoria states.
It also uncovered widespread incidents of sexual-related offenses, mostly rape, attempted rape, sexual harassment, and murder of children.
According to the Executive Director of SPIDO, there is a concern that the situation could be worse among pastoralists in other regions where child marriage was rampant before the lockdown.
Savior Lazarus warned that continued closure of schools and hard economic conditions could lead to more parents giving away their children in the form of marriage.
SPIDO called for the provision of medical care for child abuse survivors and increased advocacy for human rights.
It also recommends the establishment of a juvenile justice legal aid scheme.
According to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, South Sudan has the seventh-highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world.
South Sudan’s Bill of Rights stipulates that no one below the age of 18 shall be subjected to negative and harmful cultural practices that affect his or her health, welfare, or dignity.
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