13 March 2017

Sudan: Attention Grows for Anti-Child Marriage Campaign

Khartoum — Women and children rights activists are campaigning against the marriage of underage girls, a widespread phenomenon in Sudan. The organisers hope to kick-off an initiative to eventually prevent child marriages.

Activist Sadiya Adam told Radio Dabanga that the campaign runs until 15 March and resulted in a lot of attention on Sudanese social media and online discussion and publication platforms.

The Sudanese Initiative against Violence decided to launch the campaign after a girl, aged 11 years, was married to a man in El Obeid in North Kordofan. The child marriage, once someone shared the information online, sparked widespread disapproval.

"This incident robs her of her childhood and subjects her to many health risks," Sadiya Adam, based in Khartoum, told Radio Dabanga's Milafat Sudaniya.

There is no article in the Sudanese law that prevents the marriage of children. The Personal Status Act in Sudan governs legal procedures that pertain to personal and familial relations, including marriage, divorce and inheritance, and are based on the Shari'a, the divine law of Islam. For example a guardian should be appointed to sign the marriage contract on behalf of the woman.

Adam: "Therefore the campaign aims at drawing the attention of legislators, decision-makers, families and parents, especially in the rural areas. Our campaign includes activists and workers in the medical and legal fields in Sudan."

The success of the campaign lies primarily with the responsibility that families in rural areas are willing to take. "90 percent of all marriages under 18 years occur in Sudan's rural and remote areas."

The initiative has collected a number of signatures from people to be raised with the concerned authorities in order to combat the phenomenon of child marriage, and kick-off a larger campaign in Sudan.

In 2013 the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported from its survey into women's freedoms in Arab countries that Sudan is one of the worst countries for women rights. Girls can legally marry from the age of 10, and a third of the women aged between 20 and 24 were married by the age of 18.

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