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South Sudan Family Allegedly Kills Woman Who Refused Forced Marriage

In this photo taken July 31, 2017, a South Sudanese man tends to his herd of cattle outside the town of Rumbek, South Sudan. With forced marriages, cows are used for payments and dowries.

Prosecutors in Rumbek, South Sudan are expected to file murder charges this week against three men accused of killing a 19-year-old woman after she refused to marry a man chosen by her family.

The woman’s brother and two paternal uncles were detained in connection after the woman’s death late last month in Rumbek, according to Lakes state police spokesman Captain Elijah Mabor Makuac.

“The (men) decided to torture her up to death. So they killed a young lady and police immediately went and apprehended all the members who participated in the torturing,’’ Makuac told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

Makuac said Matueny eloped with a man a month ago but her family rejected the man because he could not pay a dowry. He said the woman’s parents filed divorce papers for their daughter, the divorce was finalized, and the parents quickly arranged for their daughter to marry another man who had money. But Matueny refused to marry that man.

In Lakes state, it is customary for a bride price to range anywhere from 50 to 300 cows depending on a number of factors including the woman's education, her height, and the man's economic status.

Captain Makuac has urged state residents to stop the practice of forced marriages.

“Instead of killing your own daughter, people should give the preference to a lady to choose a man of her choice, then she can be given that chance. The law says whoever kills somebody is guilty, because no one(is) given freedom of killing people. What remains now is the law to take its course,” Makuac told VOA.

Gabriel Mabor Mangar, Lakes state coordinator for the national NGO Community Empowerment for Progress Organization called Metueny’s killing a violation of human rights.

“You cannot take somebody’s life. You have to talk and convince your daughter or sister until you find a way forward,” Mangar told South Sudan in Focus.

In Dinka custom, if a woman refuses a forced marriage and insists on marrying a man of her choice, the man she marries is charged a fine of 36 cows on top of the agreed-to dowry according to Mangar.

Rumbek resident Benjamin Makur Mabor urged authorities to punish the woman’s parents.

“We really condemn the act. We do not like such behavior in our community and we have been talking to the community to stop such behavior because there is nothing worth human life, Mabor told South Sudan in Focus.

In the past Mabor said, families would often resolve such matters peacefully.

“Previously in this community when a lady is impregnated or sometimes eloped it means they are in love and it is upon the elders to call themselves and discuss what to offer to the parents. As a member of this community, always we try to bring communities together and educate them not to be fighting when a girl is impregnated or eloped by a certain community,” Mabor told VOA.

It is not the first time a young woman was killed in Lakes state for refusing a forced marriage. In April 2019, an 18-year old woman in Yirol West County was killed by her parents for refusing a forced marriage. And in January two brothers were arrested after killing their teenaged sister when she refused to marry a man chosen by her parents, according to local officials.