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The UN reports that more than 4 million girls in South Sudan were affected by forced marriage in 2022 (Bigstock)

Catholic clerics in South Sudan are raising alarms over forced child marriages, complaining that the traditional practice scuttles girls’ dreams of higher education. Source: Crux. 

The world’s youngest nation, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, is notorious for early marriages. The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) reported that “more than 10 girls are forced into marriage every week in South Sudan and over 50 per cent of all girls in the country are married before the age of 18”.

The United Nations-led Humanitarian Response Plan for South Sudan indicates that 4 million girls were affected by early or forced marriage in 2022, an increase from 2.7 million in 2021.

The sobering figures have drawn a strong Catholic reaction.

Wau Diocese Bishop Mathew Remijio Adam and Torit Diocese Bishop Emmanuel Barnadino Lowi Napeta blasted fathers for privileging dowries of cows and other gifts over the education and welfare of their children.

“As Church leaders, we are not happy with fathers because our girls are disappearing from school every year because of forced marriage or pregnancy,” Bishop Adam said.

The cleric underscored the need for parents to foster the education of their children, both girls and boys, “for a better and equal society because marrying them at an early age or before finishing their studies destroys their future”.

Bishop Napeta said: “During my pastoral visits, I heard some elders are forcing their girls to get married while still young because of cows.

“I want our elders to denounce these issues of forced and early marriages because it stops the girls from getting the education they want …This old mentality needs to be challenged to allow the girls to get quality education.”


Catholics in South Sudan voice alarm over forced marriage (By Ngala Killian Chimtom, Crux)