Facebook is coming under fire for allowing a man in South Sudan to make a post auctioning off his 17-year-old daughter to the highest bidder as a child bride.
As the Guardian reported, the post from the war-torn African nation gained viral attention and was allowed to remain up for several days as a group of men bid on the life of the teen. The report noted that at least five men participated, including the region’s deputy general.
A man who already had eight other wives eventually submitted the winning bid, paying the father a total package of 500 cows, two luxury cars, two bikes, a boat, mobile phones, and $10,000 in cash.
Philips Anyang Ngong, a human rights lawyer who tried to stop the girl’s sale, said the viral Facebook post was “the biggest test of child abuse, trafficking and auctioning of a human being.” He called for all of those involved, including Facebook, to be held responsible.
Others are speaking up as well. As ABC.net.au reported, the human rights organization Plan International South Sudan is slamming the use of the social media site for the girl’s auction, comparing it to modern-day slavery.
“This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets,” said George Otim, the organization’s director for South Sudan. “That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world’s biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief.”
A 16-year-old South Sudanese girl was sold off for marriage to the highest bidder on Facebook in November and a businessman from #SouthSudan outbid four others-which included a senior Sudanese government official https://t.co/1DzDi5ROsY #ChildMarriage
— AfricanFeminism (AF) (@AfriFeminists) November 21, 2018
A number of organizations have highlighted the epidemic of young girls being forced into marriage in sub-Saharan Africa. As Human Rights Watch noted in a 2015 report, 40 percent of girls in this area marry before they turn 18. It added that 15 of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in Africa. The rates are especially high in some countries, with 77 percent of girls in Niger being married before they are 18 and 60 percent in Central African Republican and Chad. Without significant actions to curb the practice, the number of girls married as children is expected to double by 2050, the report noted.
The organization also noted that girls who are forced into marriage at such young ages are often denied basic human rights. They are regularly forced to discontinue their education and also face sexual and physical violence.
After the teenage girl in South Sudan was auctioned off using Facebook to promote the sale, The Guardian noted that a picture was posted of the new husband sitting beside the girl as she wore an ornate dress and stared off at the floor.