WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A father from South Sudan sold his 16-year old daughter online in exchange for 500 cows and cash.
- Facebook earned the ire of several women’s groups and children’s rights organizations for allowing the post in its site.
- Although illegal, 52% of girls in South Sudan marry before 18 to escape poverty.
The world’s biggest social networking site Facebook has come under severe criticism for allowing a 16-year-old child bride from South Sudan to be auctioned off on its platform.
Bidders included 5 men, some of whom were high-ranking government officials. However, the post was removed as soon as Facebook learned of it albeit 15 days later and after the minor was married.
According to the South Sudanese National Alliance for Women Lawyers (NAWL), the posted auction was not done by the girls’ family but from someone in their community. It was also reported that the family benefitted much from the sale by receiving 500 cows, 3 cars and $10,000, the highest bride price so far in the region.
While it is illegal in South Sudan to be married before 18, 52 percent of girls are married before they turn 18, according to UNICEF 2017 figures. Due to the high levels of poverty, instability and gender gap in the country, families feel child marriages can help them escape poverty.
Activists in Plan International, an organization for children’s rights, are concerned that this bidding could encourage other families to receive larger payments through social media. Its director Geoge Otim told CNN that although part of the country’s culture is offering payments, this case is in another level due to the “barbaric use of technology”. He also added that this also recalls to mind ”latter-day slave markets.”
In a statement, a company spokesperson said Facebook does not allow any form of trafficking including posts, pages, ads or groups. They told CNN that they already removed the post and permanently disabled the account belonging to the person who posted it on Facebook.
In addition, they said: “We’re always improving the methods we use to identify contents that breaks our policies, including doubling our safety and security team to more than 30,000 and investing in technology.”
Equality Now, an organization advocating gender equality called on Facebook to upgrade their monitoring systems by placing in more human resources to monitor their platform. They also told CNN that Facebook too has a responsibility to uphold and ensure that all people’s rights should be protected.
A statement from Plan International has requested the South Sudanese government to conduct a probe into the matter and take action against any officials involved.
The statement also includes: “Child marriage is a serious form of violence against girls, which can have profound consequences on their survival, health, development and well-being.”
As a solution to prevent child marriages, girls should be kept in school says Otim. However, he admits that a lot of effort would be needed to change the culture.
Source: ABC Action News