South Sudan, Niger Take Steps to Defend Girls from Child Marriage

OPSHOT - Chinyere (Godgiven) and her husband-to-be Jones (R) prepare wedding documents during a service at the Evangelic Calvary Life Mission Church on May 28, 2017 in the Osusu district of Aba. / AFP PHOTO / MARCO LONGARI (Photo credit should read MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)
MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty

Recent developments in Niger and South Sudan could signal a turning point for preventing girls from being married off before they become adults in two countries with the highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world, news outlets reported this week.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, child marriage is a human rights violation that mainly involves girls. With more than 75 percent of girls married before their 18th birthday, Niger has the highest prevalence rate of child marriage in the world, the UNICEF reported in February.

South Sudan has the seventh highest rate of child marriage, with more than 50 percent of girls married off before they become adults, Breitbart News learned from a UNICEF official who spoke to Reuters and data maintained by the agency.

Despite the high prevalence of child marriage in Niger and South Sudan, there have been some promising developments in the two countries towards ending the practice.

On Thursday, Voice of America (VOA) reported:

Niger has one of the highest known child marriage rates in the world, with three out of four girls in this West African country married before age 18. But some girls are refusing this traditional cultural practice and are being helped by women who were themselves forced into child marriage.

Balkissa Chaibou, 24, meets twice a month with Nigerian girls to discuss their right to oppose arranged marriage. … Balkissa said her awareness is to give information to young girls. They need to know what they want, know where they want to go, and what to do to get there. She argued, if the girls know their goals, their ambitions, they will know where to go and how to get there. They need to know that they always have a choice — the choice to say “no.”

In a landmark case that activists believe could benefit women’s rights in South Sudan, a court in the African country ruled against the marriage of a 16-year-old girl, Reuters reported Tuesday.

“The marriage of a 16-year-old girl, the daughter of a cattle herdsman, to a 28-year-old man was deemed illegal by a court in Kapoeta late last month, the southern state’s information minister Simon Karlo said this week,” it added.

South Sudanese activists hope the ruling sets a precedent for other girls seeking to end their marriage.

“Child marriage is common in Kapoeta because the communities are cattle keepers and so they use their daughters for wealth,” Karlo told Reuters. “It is indeed the first time for a court here [in South Sudan] to take on such a case.”

“This was a historical moment … The judge opened a gateway for us to use it as a precedent in future child marriage cases,” Josephine Chandiru, the executive director of Steward Women which offers legal advice to victims of sexual and gender-based violence, reportedly added.

UNICEF noted in February that sub-Saharan Africa, which includes Niger and South Sudan, is home to more cases of child marriage than anywhere else in the world. About four out of every ten girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before they turn 18.

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