The Women of South Sudan

We all know that women are not treated well in many of the world’s countries, but I found this story about the status of women in South Sudan so poignant I have to share it. Women there as you might surmise are married as early as possible The government passed a law 8 years ago outlawing marriage before the age of 18, but the law is not enforced and in rural areas, it makes no sense to villagers. Wealth in measured in cows, and women bring cows as bride price. A woman is usually worth 20 to 40 cows, and an attractive woman who is seen as fertile, can bring up to 200 cows. There is no escape from this fate, only 7% of girls finish elementary school, 2% finish high school. As easily deduced education is not valued. Girls marry, fetch water, carry firewood, cook, breed children, often die in childbirth, and there is no let up from the hardships of such lives, no possibility to not be under the control of father, brother, husband. Girls as young as 13,most often between 15 and 17 are married usually to older men they probably have never met and have no say so as to whom they marry. Older men usually have more cows and so are often more desired by a girl’s father. But older men also can have other wives, who then treat the younger one as a servant. If a girl or a young bride attempts to run away, she may not succeed, in one case the brother of a young woman came after her with a machete. He needed the cows she would bring in by marrying an older man, so he could marry the girl he wanted. If no one pursues them once they try to leave, given they have no education, added to the lack of economic activity in those regions, they end in in the brothel, called the “lodge.” The UN is trying to ban child marriage by 2030, but in cases like South Sudan, experts say, it may take a longer while because so many aspects of the culture have to change first. As most of us already know child marriage not only perpetuates poverty and subjugates women, it is a violation of human rights and an impediment to literacy. Women’s equality in many parts of the world, including our own society, can still be is elusive, nevertheless the status and plight of the women of South Sudan ought to let us know how much many of us have.