Child Bride Auctioned Off on Facebook by Her Father in 'Barbaric Use of Technology': Charities
A 17-year-old girl was reportedly auctioned to be married on Facebook by her father and now, activists are concerned that other families may turn to social media sites to sell their daughters' hand in marriage.
The auction for the South Sudan teen began on October 25, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Five different men were involved with the bidding, but only one wealthy businessman finally won the girl's father over, offering 500 cows, three luxury cars, and $10,000, the charity reveals.
Photos of her in a white wedding dress began to circulate on social media sites, with some reports calling her a “virgin bride” or “the most expensive woman in South Sudan,” the foundation said.
Nine days after the initial Facebook post, the teen was wed to the highest bidder in the country's Eastern Lakes State, according to the girls and children rights charity Plan International.
“This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets,” George Otim, Country Director of Plan International South Sudan, said. “That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world's biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief.”
In a statement issued to PEOPLE, Facebook explained that the post and user had been removed from the site on Nov. 9, the same day it was brought to the company's attention, for violating community standards and their policies against human trafficking.
“Any form of human trafficking – whether posts, pages, ads or groups is not allowed on Facebook,” a spokesperson for the social networking site said. “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,” they added.
Although child rights groups were happy in Facebook's decision to remove the post, they were still upset with the delay in their action and believe if it had been handled sooner, the teen might not have been married off.
Moving forward, careful monitoring on the site is key to avoiding another child bride incident, says women and girls rights organization Equality Now.
“Facebook has a responsibility on securing and protecting the rights of women and girls,” Judy Gitau, a lawyer at Equality Now, told Reuters. “They need to put sufficient resources into monitoring what is on their platform.”
Despite the traditional use for dowries in marriage in South Sudan, Plan International is also calling on their government to further investigate the child marriage and punish those who engaged in bidding for the teen.
“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,” Plan International said.
The legal age of marriage in South Sudan is 18 years old. However, more than 50 percent of girls in the community are married before they turn 18, activist group Girls Not Brides reported based on data from UNICEF.
Many South Sudanese families believe child marriage can help their daughters escape poverty, as well as protect them from pre-marital sex and unwanted pregnancies, the group said.