Another generation of girls in South Sudan will miss out on an education, face huge health risks in childbirth and are more likely to face sexual and domestic violence, if efforts to end child marriage are not stepped up, In Nyal, in the north of the country, We found that 70 percent of girls are married before the age of 18, significantly higher than the pre-conflict national average of 45 percent. The research also found that one in ten girls in Nyal are married before the age of 15.
Families told SALI that, while child marriage is still influenced by traditions, the main drivers are now poverty and hunger fuelled by five years of conflict. A breakdown in the rule of law and increased risk of sexual violence are also factors. Despite a marked reduction in fighting following the peace deal in September 2018, the factors that have exacerbated girls’ risk of child marriage remain. South Sudan is one of the most difficult places in the world for girls to get an education – with three quarters of girls out of school – and child marriage is one of the primary reasons why girls are held back. Child marriage also increases girls’ risk of death or complications during pregnancy and childbirth in a country where the maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world. The practice also puts girls at greater risk of sexual, physical and emotional violence.
Child marriage has long been a concern in South Sudan and the Government has developed a long-term plan to end the practice while activists across the country are also challenging leaders to push for change. SALI is calling on the government to take urgent action by prioritising its plan and investing significantly to end child marriage.