The posts were made to promote the sale of a 16 or 17 year old girl from South Sudan. Payments were being sought in exchange for her hand in marriage.
Plan International, a children’s rights organization, reported that five men in total bid on the girl; some were high-ranking government officials. The girl’s father received 500 cows, three cars, and $10,000 in exchange for her.
The Facebook child bride auction was taken down after Facebook learned of it. However, this did not occur until the girl had already been sold and married to the buyer. The company reported that they had taken down the post on November 9, but posts discussing the dowry for the girl were still occurring through November 23.
Many activists are worried that the post will cause a ripple effect, and that other families will be inspired to use social media for similar auctions.
George Otim, Plan International’s country director in South Sudan, stated: “That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world’s biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief. This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets.”
Phillips Ngong, a South Sudanese human rights lawyer, reported to CNN that the auction occurred in person, not on the social media website. He added that the family had no intention of posting the auction to Facebook. The dowry amount pledged was higher than what is typical and resulted in a great deal of buzz across the website.
“In South Sudan, Facebook and social media is a brand new thing. Someone just took a picture. And it just went viral,” Ngong stated. The man who won the auction, Kok Alat, claims he did not find out about the sale through Facebook.
Furthermore, the sale goes against South Sudan’s constitution, which states that marriage requires “free and full consent” of those planning on marrying. The country’s Child Act defines a child as anyone under the age of 18, and states that “every child has the right to be protected from early marriage.”
A spokesperson for the website added to this statement, saying: “We removed the post and permanently disabled the account belonging to the person who posted this to Facebook. We’re always improving the methods we use to identify content that breaks our policies, including doubling our safety and security team to more than 30,000 and investing in technology.”
While Otim explained that offering payment is simply a part of South Sudan’s culture, the post escalated the auction to a more extreme level due to the enormous amount of people able to view and make bids on the girl.
Judy Gitau, Equality Now’s regional coordinator for Africa, stated: “Violations against women in South Sudan are a continuing issue, but for Facebook to allow their platform to enhance these violations is a problem. They ought to put in place more human resources to monitor their platform to ensure that women’s rights, and indeed the rights of all people, are protected.”
To learn more about women’s issues in South Sudan, and to contribute to the fight for women’s equality worldwide, visit Equality Now’s website.
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