A 16-year-old South Sudanese girl was sold for marriage via Facebook in a disturbing case that has been described as “reminiscent of latter-day slave markets.”
The winning bid in the auction was for 500 cows, three cars and $10,000, and the girl was married off at a ceremony on Nov. 3 in the country’s Eastern Lakes State, according to Plan International, a humanitarian organisation focused on children’s rights.
“This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets. That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world’s biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief,” country director of Plan International South Sudan, George Otim, said in a statement.
“While it is common for dowries to be used in marriages in South Sudanese culture, nothing can excuse the way this girl – who is still a child – has been treated as nothing more than an object, sold off to the bidder prepared to offer the most money and goods.”
Facebook told Mashable it removed the post as soon it became aware of it on Nov. 9, days after Plan International said she was married off on Nov. 3. Vice News reports that the post calling for bids was published on Oct. 25.
“Any form of human trafficking whether posts, pages, ads or groups that co-ordinate this activity are not allowed on Facebook. As soon as we were made aware of this post we worked quickly to remove the content and associated profile,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
By South Sudan law, women and girls have the right to consent to marriage, and a child under the age of 18 should not be subject to exploitation or abuse.
Anti-child marriage organisation Girls Not Brides explained that “many South Sudanese communities see child marriage as a way to protect girls from pre-marital sex and unwanted pregnancies.”
UNICEF estimates more than half of girls in South Sudan are married off before their 18th birthday, with the ongoing conflict within the country pushing families towards forced marriages as a way to get money. Plan International wants the South Sudanese government to investigate the Facebook marriage auction.
Taban Abel, information minister in the state of Eastern Lakes, told Reuters that the girl had gone into hiding in the country’s capital, Juba.