Forced marriage results in suicide: why southern Sudan must stop commercializing love

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Monday, 25 October 2010 18:10
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adiok1(Maryland, USA) South Sudanese both at home and outside the country were alarmed this past week at the news of suicide by Nyikada Ngoki, a young girl from Wulu County in Lake State, South Sudan. According to this horrific news, Nyikada’s death was caused by a disagreement between herself and her family members who wanted to marry her off to a man of their choice. Two things in particular are to blame for Nyikada’s ultimate fate: 1) she was disinterested in the man her family chose for her and 2) she wanted to complete her secondary education before starting a family. These are very legitimate arguments which could have been handled more maturely to save Nyikada’s life. If we stop young men from engaging in forced marriages, parents will stop trying it as well. In the end, girls will seek to increase their educational skills on the job market in order to compete for salaried employment rather than being seen as sex slaves both by their own families and men who want to be with them when they need them.

First and foremost, I send my heartfelt condolence to Ngoki’s family for the untimely death of their daughter. My main point this time goes to young men of South Sudan, please, don’t buy any girl even if at a generous discount. This is not the first time I have argued the case of dowry in the impoverished South Sudan. I had said in my many arguments and postings in the past that dowry in South Sudan at this critical time of transition does not represent its moral standards and social values like it used to. The economic change from assets measured in animals to assets measured in cash makes dowry sounds like buying and selling. Dowry in South Sudanese villages has caused many lives in many ways ranging from forced marriages to childbirth mortality in cases of underage sell off. Thousands of cases have been kept in dark spots and silence of the communities of South Sudan. Examples can be many although Nyikada’s case must be used to change lives of our young females in our societies.

There was a case in one of the villages in Unity State (name withheld) where a family married off one of their daughters by force with support of the local court. The first day she was forced to meet her buyer so they could spend the night as husband and wife, a fierce fight broke out inside their house. The fight was caused by the girl’s insistence that she was not emotionally connected to the guy. When she advised him to look for someone else, she was ultimately strangled to death in that violence which nobody in the neighborhood dared to stop. There are many more horrible incidences related to marriages and violence against women which don’t reach the media in South Sudan. Nyikada’s case must be used at a high profile leverage to create a law that will stop this barbaric act in the 21st century against women.

If Mr. Mangok, for example, continued to find someone who would fall in love with him at free will and leave Nyikada alone, both could have been happier with their lives. Nyikada’s case must be used to stop the market behind forced marriages. Create a law which will lock up or fine men who make girls less than 18 years of age pregnant. If you make a school girl, who is below the age of marriage pregnant, you should be arrested and at the same time dismissed from a public office. A law in the public service should be created to make it harder if not illegal for someone married to an underage girl to work in South Sudan’s civil sector or in the government. This will increase moral standards at least in towns where upholding of the country’s values are expected highly.

Forcing young girls to marry at a tender age is not good for the economy of the country since this puts productivity of half the population at risk. It is also good to note that the revolution to stop force marriage and the demand to ban dowry that renders women properties of men will be fought by young girls better on their own although with help of a robust law that still yet to be seen from the government. Cristine Akuol, a journalist at the Turalei Internews Radio Station has been in the same shoes of Nyikada Ngoki and wants to do something about force marriage through the power of her career as a journalist. “One of the things I want to do is to tell our parents that forcing us into marriage is not good for us,” says Akuol.“Dinka girls, just like boys, have a right to education.” As a girl I should also be given the chance to plan my life and decide what I want to be in future and to also marry a man that I love and not one that is forced on me.”  “I just looked around at myself and my friends who were married off early and decided I could at least try to help bring an end to this culture.”

Strong women like Akuol must come out to fight this evil part of our cultures. This will make the fight for social justice between parents and the government even easier and more peaceful. Akuol was dropped from secondary school in a weird way according to her story publicized on the local news in Warrap State. The father, however, never got all the cows he wanted and finally decided to withdraw her back from the guy (just like foreclosure of a mortgaged house). Is she different from a loaned out or rental commodity? This should not happen in a country that is struggling to meet the international human rights standard in order to vote for independence in the forth coming referendum. News like Nyikada Ngoki’s case will not let the world accept us as an independent country ready to government itself while respecting human rights.  

James Adiok Mayik, an English Instructor at Lado International College,Silver Spring, Maryland, is a regular contributor to the New Sudan Vision. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..