Children’s rights in Practice. Implementation of Children’s rights in relation to early marriage in South Sudan

Essay, 2013

23 Pages, Grade: A




Early Marriage and Childhood.

Background of South Sudan.

The Prevalence of Early marriage in South Sudan
Implementation of children’s rights in relation to early marriage in South Sudan.
The principle of Participation: The right to decide if, when and whom to marry.
The principle of the best interest of a child verses Protection of girls and family honor
The principle of Non-Discrimination: Gender and the Right to be Free from Physical, Mental, and Sexual Violence.

Conclusion and recommendations


This essay uses key children’s rights principles and standards to discuss the practices of early marriage in South Sudan from the perspectives of perception of childhood. This paper is based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch (2013) on early marriage and the conclusion of the committee on the Convention on the Right of the Child (CRC) (2009) on Sudan before South Sudan gained her independence. However, relevant researches carried by other organizations have also been used..


The connection between the practices of early marriage and compliance with children’s rights although looks obvious, is rarely taken seriously by many African governments despite being signatories to the relevant Human Rights treaties. This situation is not different in the case of South Sudan. Freeman (1992) in Prunty (2011) argues that ‘true recognition of children’s rights requires implementation in practice’. Whereas South Sudan has not ratified major international or regional human rights treaties, despite the president promising to do so in his 2011 independence-day speech[1], International law favors the automatic continuation of Human Rights obligations from predecessor to successor states[2]. As a result, South Sudan inherited a duty to respect, protect, and fulfill rights guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), including its Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and all human Rights treaties which Sudan was a signatory to by the time South Sudan gain its autonomy. The discourse of children’s rights has emerged as an important consideration in all practice relating to children. However, in spite of significant attention given to the consequences of early marriage, the commitment of the Government of South Sudan to work with children’s rights standards seems to be inadequate, beside, early marriage and Children’s rights are rarely considered together. Implementation of children’s rights in practice is necessary to maximize potential to improve the lives of children as proper understanding of social order requires consideration of all its members (Mayall, 2000). Children being the minority group lack a voice and yet have rights to be heard and their views taken into consideration (Ibid). It is therefore through working towards better understanding of social conditions of childhood that we can provide a firm basis for working towards implementation of their rights. This is currently lacking in South Sudan. The immaturity of children is a biological fact of life but the ways in which this immaturity is understood and made meaningful is a fact of culture through socialization (See La Fontaine, 1979). According to UNICEF (2008a), South Sudanese girls are socialized to believe that their contribution to the community is though reproductive roles which are achieved through early marriages. This has become a norm and a natural course which the women and girls are socialized to defend (Ibid).

Early marriage also known as Child marriage occurs before a girl gains her full growth ‘physically, physiologically, and psychologically to shoulder responsibilities of marriage and child bearing’ (International Planned Parenthood Federation- IPPF, 2006, p.9). Although Child marriage affects both sexes, girls are disproportionately affected as they are the majority of the victims. For example, Human Rights Watch (2013) reported that over 5,000 girls and women in South Sudan are affected by obstetric fistula each year. The practice of early marriage gives no reason for celebration in South Sudan as marriages are arranged without girls’ choice about time, age and partner of marriage (Human Right Watch, 2013). IPPF (2011) argued that lack of choice among girls restrict achievement of their aspiration and realistic option to determine their future. As a result, children’s overall development is compromised, leaving them socially isolated with little education, skills and opportunities for employment and self-realization[3]. Early marriage occurs because of many reasons ranging from social, economic and political factors (IPPF, 2006, UNICEF, 2001, 2005). Sometimes this may include the betrothals of young children or babies (IPPF, 2006). In South Sudan it occurs because of bride price/dowry, poverty, traditions and weak legal and policy frame work (Human Right Watch, 2013, p.52). Premature marriages are human rights violation and a denial of chances for full development (UNICEF, 2008b).

Early Marriage and Childhood.

Children should be looked at as social actors rather than outcome of socialization (Prout & James (1990) unfortunately, they are the majority group who lack power to influence the quality of their lives (Mayall, Bendelow, Storey and Veltman, 1996). Children’s rights have been allied with the emerging new sociology of childhood to explore the social status of children through consideration of their positioning in a range of social settings and sociological theory (Jones & Welch, 2010). According to Mayall, (2000, p. 244), childhood is a political issue. The practices of early marriage constitute the perceptions generated from adults’ perspectives in terms of needs for protection of girls and yet this is driven by adult economics motives, traditions and society specific objectives rather than protection needs. Hence it constitutes a violation that must be monitored. Whereas in most Northern European countries, the socialization tends to be stronger in school, in most developing countries childhood is structured around quick economic gains through early marriage. To adequately understand the practice of early marriage and its implications on children’s rights, the three key children’s rights principles and standards (1) best interests; (2) non-discrimination and (3) participation are used as critical lens to examine the practice. It should be noted that the three principles are interwoven and cannot be discussed in isolation of the other.[4]

Background of South Sudan.

On 9 July 2011, South Sudan gained her independence and became the newest country in Africa. South Sudan has a total population of 8,260,490, and covers 644,329 km2 (UNICEF, 2012). The new Country is bordered by North Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic (Save the Children, 2011). South Sudan consists of ten states of Upper Nile, Jonglei, Unity, Warrup, Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Western Bahr El Ghazal, Lakes, Western Equatoria, Central Equatoria and Eastern Equatoria. Juba, in Central Equatoria, is the country’s capital (Ibid). According to UNESCO (2011), girls in South Sudan have a higher chance of dying in childbirth than finishing school, with only 5% of girls who make it to the last grade.

The Prevalence of Early marriage in South Sudan

The SSHHS, (2010) indicates that 7.3% of girls are married before the age of 15. 39% of girls between 15 and 19 years old are currently married or in a union and 48% of women were married between 16 and 18 years old (UNICEF 2012). Although the prevalence is high among cattle keepers, child marriage in South Sudan is relatively widespread in rural areas (UNICEF, 2009). The decision on marriage is taken and concluded by male members of the family including choosing the male partner for the girl (Save the Children in South Sudan, 2011). Girls are usually expected to submit to the choice of spouse made by their male family members and most girls give in to the pressure from the family (Human Right Watch 2013). Early marriage is condoned by both adults and children themselves as the societal norm (UNICEF, 2008a). There are evidence that children are occasionally imprisoned for refusing to accept the family’ choice for married (UNICEF, 2009). Human rights Watch (2013) found that girls’ attempt to refuse arranged marriages were often met with resistance from parents and male relatives.

Implementation of children’s rights in relation to early marriage in South Sudan.

The principle of Participation: The right to decide if, when and whom to marry.

Children’s rights to have their views heard is given due weight in all matters affecting them and considered a cornerstone of the CRC, reinforcing the status of a child as an active participants in promotion, protection and monitoring of their rights[5] (Fortin,2003; Freedom,2000 in Elwood and Lundy 2010). Article 12 of the Convention on the Right of the Child (CRC) states that States parties shall ‘assure a child who is capable of forming his or her views the right to freely express those views in accordance with the age and maturity of the child’. This means older children have the right to participate in decisions about whom and when they marry as soon as they have the maturity to understand the implications of their decisions (Human Rights Watch, 2013). However, the devil is in the detail. There are challenges in determining the age a child should be before he or she can ‘consent’ fully and freely to marriage and sexual relations and with full understanding of the implications of such a union, including the risks of underage marriage. In addition, no matter their age, children’s traditionally low status in many African societies, South Sudan inclusive and well-entrenched cultural beliefs about childhood, undermine their ability to oppose the wishes or opinion of a parent/guardian. Childhood place children in an inferior position as adult position themselves to ‘know best the best interest of a child’ (Mayall, 2000, p. 248) and their lives is structured to fulfill what adult wants. There are major tensions in the realisation of the principle of participation in South Sudan. Firstly, is the issue of minimum age of marriage. The 2011 Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan does not set a minimum age of marriage, instead it ambiguously states in Article 15 that, “Every person of marriageable age shall have the right to marry a person of the opposite sex and to found a family according to their respective family laws”. Almost all the girls interviewed by Human Rights Watch (2013) in South Sudan including those aged 17-18, reported that they had been forced into marriage and that no one had asked for their views on whether they wanted to get married or to the chosen person. A response from a chief below shows that girls are never asked for their opinions about marriage.

‘If someone comes in the right way and asks for the hand of the girl in marriage, we can give out the girl. The problem is when she decides on her own to get married to someone who is not chosen by the family’ (Human rights’ interview with Chief Akech Malek, Bor County) .[6]

To protect children from the harmful practice of early and forced marriages, the Government of South Sudan has an obligation to enforce a consistent definition of a child and a minimum age of marriage in all judicial and customary laws and practices. The government also has a duty to ensure that all births and marriages are registered by a competent authority[7]. The CRC committee has repeatedly addressed the need for countries to establish a definition of a child in all domestic legislation that is consistent with the provisions of the CRC. It has also taken a clear position on age 18 as the minimum age for marriage, regardless of parental consent.[8] At the Africa regional level, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), article.21 (2) explicitly requires states to take effective action, including legislation, to specify the minimum age of marriage as 18 years. The Maputo Protocol also specifies that states are to “enact appropriate national legislative measures to guarantee that the minimum age of marriage for women shall be 18 years” (Maputo Protocol, art.6 (a). Because South Sudan recognizes customary law as integral to its legal system, it needs to ensure that both judicial and customary legal processes adopt and enforce the same definition of a child and a minimum age for marriage. In 2009, the UN committee on the rights of the child noted that children’s opinions in Sudan are not given sufficient consideration and that respect for the views of the child within the family, at school, in the courts, before administrative authorities and in wider society remains limited. Taking into account its general comment No. 12 (2009) on the right of the child to be heard, the Committee recommended that the State party (Sudan)[9] should promote the full implementation of the right of the child to participate actively in decisions concerning his or her welfare in the family, at school, in the courts, before administrative authorities and in wider society and that the State party should also incorporate this right into all policies and programmes relating to children and priorities awareness-raising among the public and professionals working in the area of child rights. Therefore, South Sudan should take policy and programmatic measures to ensure children’s right to be heard in matters concerning marriage.

The second element of confusion stems from the concept of children claiming their rights, for example arguing that children must be afforded greater protection whilst simultaneously presenting them as equal and competent advocates for their rights are problematic and needs further elaboration (Lansdown,2005).

Today, sociology of childhood emphasizes on children as active, engaged agents in their own lives changing former stereotypes that saw children as passive or incapable (Jones & Welch 2010). Involving children in decision making about their bodies, space and future, perceiving children’s live from children’s perspectives rather than adult perspectives and design of services with children in mind to enable adoption by children are key link between sociology of childhood and children’s rights (Ibid). According to Woodhead (2005, 95) ‘respecting the rights of young children changes the way we think about ourselves’. Wealth of literatures are of the view that the representation of children and adult roles are in transition (James, Prout, and Jenks 1998; Sommer, 2003). Woodhead (2005 in Bae, 2009) argues that implementing child’s participatory rights (especially articles 12, 13, and 14 in the UN Convention) in practical situations challenges familiar ways of thinking about adult-child relationships and demands new role expectations for adults who take care of children. Goldson (2007) in Robinson (2013) urged that children’s dependence on adults is generally viewed as natural and essential social arrangement which reinforce laws and policy discourse. Mayall (2006: 11) argued that the child is “firmly placed as object of intervention by state and family”. Participation and protection are ‘’offset against one another circumscribing the agency of children and youth’’ and rights given to children are partial and conditional on compliant to social cultural and political regulations (Robinson, 2013: 33). The discourse of children’s participation in matter that affects them has been challenged by many researchers, for example Lewis, (1998); Feeny & Boyden, (2004) in Biggeri, Ballet & Comim, (2011) argued that no child has participated in drafting the convention in practice. Lewis, (1998) asserted that the rights were prepared in a top down approach with no roots at local level hence making acceptance and implementation impossible. Baraldi (2008) pointed out that out of 40 articles of the convention, only one concern participation while all the others are about control of children. Although many ‘articles of the CRC are widely in line with human rights approaches to liberty and relate well with sociological approaches, most article see children as passive actors, typical of the classic human rights approach’ ( Biggeri et al, 2011:38).

The principle of the best interest of a child verses Protection of girls and family honor

Article 3 of the CRC states that in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. It is however on record that many South Sudanese communities view child marriage as being in the ‘best interests of girls’ claiming that early marriage protect girls from pre-marital sex, unwanted pregnancy that undermines family honor and decreases the amount of dowry a family may receive and the only means of getting many children who are needed for labor and protection of elders (Human Rights Watch (2013). Similar view was also reported in Zimbabwe and Nigeria (see Sibanda, 2011; and Tamunoimama, 2012). Tamunoimama, (2012) reported that parents in Nigeria feel that their daughters are better off and safer with a regular male guardian and control. There is always a strong social pressure on families to conform and failure can often result in ‘ridicule, disapproval or family shame’ (IPPF, 2006, p.21). Whereas parents’ understanding of the ‘best interest of a child’ does not consider the child’s view, the UNCRC article 3 requires that children’s interests are a primary consideration (Freeman, 2000). Article 3(1) of the UNCRC demands that;

‘’In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration’’.[10]

Lensdown (2005:7) argued that ‘without explicit recognition that assessment of children’s best interest must be directed towards the realization of their rights and take a serious account of children’s own view, it can be a powerful tool in the hands of adults to defend any action or decision made on behalf of children’.

It should be noted that children’s best interests are not necessarily principal as other factors like economic costs public interest might over ride a child’s or children’s best interests (Elowood and Lundry 2010). McGoldrick (1991:136) urged that the principle is simple to state but it is difficult to implement and practice because of personal, economic and cultural factors that determine the perception of what is in a best interest of a child. However Killeylly and Lundy (2006) argued that in that case, one must stick to the UNCRC which is the only determinant of the best interest of a child. For Lensdown (2005), the reference point for any assessments of children’s best interest must be whether that action or decision serves to promote or protect their rights., However, difficulty still remains since there is no clear definition and contentious with the best interest of a child or group of children (Ibid). There are equally several universal principles which enforce the principle of best interest of a child stated in the CRC., For example Article 16 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls for ‘free and full consent of the intending spouses’ and Article 16 (2) of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) stressed that child marriage shall have no ‘legal effects’. Article 21 (2) of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child prohibits child marriage and calls for effective action, including legislation and that the minimum age of marriage shall be 18 years which is one of the aspects of best interest of a child in the content of marriage is whether the marriage in question meets the standard set in the CRC which determines the age and full consent.

One key source of confusion in South Sudan is how to reconcile the Transitional constitution with customary law. The Constitution recognizes customary law as a source of law when confronted with customary practices that are discriminatory, harmful, violate the human rights. The Child Act provides support for the non application of harmful customary practices, such as child marriage, through a provision which state that customary and traditional laws shall be applied “except where those laws are contrary to the best interests of the child” (Child Act, article. 4(4)). Unfortunately, neither courts nor the government of South Sudan have provided any guidance as to what constitutes the best interests of the child for the purposes of the Child Act. Human Rights Watch’s interview with the director of child protection, Central Equatoria State under the Ministry of Gender and Social Development ,shows clear challenges posed by customary law in addressing child marriage, he said;

‘’There is a law, but … early marriage is a traditional act. If you try to stop it, people will accuse you of wanting to change their culture. Judges are having a hard time passing sentences for early marriage. The Child Act cannot be implemented completely because of tradition’’.

According to South Sudan Human Rights Commission’ (2011, p.32) annual report, the chiefs who preside over customary courts are older men and their decisions reflect the patriarchal nature of the society. They generally do not enforce the same definition of a child as the Child Act, article. 4(4), pp. 2-10) and girls are considered ready for marriage as soon as they reach puberty at around 12 rather than 18. Can marriage at the age of 12 or below be of best interest of a child? According to Mayall, (2000), the concept of adolescent itself is adult constructed and not a term used by children themselves. Such terms in South Sudan is used to demarcate the time for marriage or even before as indicated by the Human Rights Commission’s annual report. Human Rights watch’ report (2013) shows that girls reported that the best interest of the child was never considered rather than the number of cattle that the family would receive as stated by a girl below.

“My husband paid 75 cows as dowry for me. We never talked or courted before we got married. When I learned about the marriage, I felt very bitter. I told my father, “I don’t want to go to this man.” He replied, “I have loved the cattle that this man has, you will marry him.”[11]

The imposition of a marriage partner on a child means that their childhood is cut short and their fundamental rights are compromised. The best interest of the child principle in the CRC also provides a basis for evaluating the laws and practices of States with respect to the protection of children. To pursue the best interests of children, parents and government of South Sudan are responsible for protecting their children’s health, education, development and overall well-being to the best of their capacities. Since child marriage harms the girl child’s health, particularly her sexual and reproductive health, which often results in maternal mortality and morbidity due to early pregnancies, States are obliged under the CRC Article (24.3) “to take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children”

The principle of Non-Discrimination: Gender and the Right to be Free from Physical, Mental, and Sexual Violence.

Child brides are frequently susceptible to domestic violence because the age difference emphasizes the powerlessness of the girl child (UNICEF, 2005). There is some empirical evidence that child marriage is associated with discrimination against girl child and increased risk of girl’s experiencing domestic violence and sexual abuse (ICRW, 2003). According to Human Rights Watch’ report (2013) girls who are subjected to child marriage are experiencing violence from their spouses, in-laws, and other family members. This includes physical, verbal, sexual, and psychological abuse and death as below;

‘’This man went to my uncles and paid a dowry of 80 cows. I resisted the marriage. They threatened me. They said, “If you want your siblings to be taken care of, you will marry this man.” I said he is too old for me. They said, “You will marry this old man whether you like it or not because he has given us something to eat.” They beat me so badly. They also beat my mother because she was against the marriage’’ Aguet, 15 years old.[12]

I had refused to have sex with him, but he forced me. My brothers-in-law used to lock me up in the house during the day so that I don’t go anywhere, and so that I can have sex with him. Ageer M., Bor County.[13]

The girl was 17 years old and studying in Rumbek East County in Lakes State. The father decided to give her in marriage to an old man who had … 200 cows. The old man had never spoken with the girl. In our area, people don’t even inform the girl [if they want to marry her]. So the old man went and asked her family. Her family went to the cattle camp and saw the 200 cows. In the evening, they told the girl, “We want to hand you over to this man.” The girl refused. She said, “I don’t know this man. I have never spoken to him, and he is not my age.” Then some young people took the girl to a nearby forest. They tied her to a tree and beat her up until she died (Human Rights interview with Samuel Dem, senior inspector, directorate of alternative education, Ministry of General Education and Instruction).[14]

Early marriage is a direct form of discrimination against a girl child, who is often deprived of her basic rights to health, education, development and equality as a result of the practice (Sibanda, 2011). Childhood cannot be separated from gender and socialization through social institutions. Social norms of childhood are an actively negotiated set of social relationships within which the early years of human life are constituted (James and Prout 2004). Child marriage is legitimized by patriarchal and related family norms, customs and structures which perpetuate discrimination and reinforced through socialization from childhood (UNICEF 2008b, IPPF, 2006). According to Lansdown (2005) cultural factors impede children’s capacity to claim rights and that equal respect for the rights of all children without discrimination is an explicit obligation under the convention on the rights of the child. South Sudan has obligations under the ICCPR, the ICESCR, and the CRC to ensure women’s rights to equality and non-discrimination. The ICCPR calls for “the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the … Covenant,” including the right to birth registration, to free and full consent to marriage, to equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses during marriage and at its dissolution, to life, to liberty and security of the person, and to freedom of expression. The ICESCR makes similar provisions in article (3). The CRC, article 2 recognizes the right of children to be free from discrimination, including on the grounds of sex and age. The ACRWC article 21 states that, “Child marriage and the betrothal of girls and boys shall be prohibited.” Prohibitions on child marriage and non-discrimination are also included in the Maputo Protocol and the African Charter[15].The inadequate fulfillment and protection of these rights is both a cause and consequence of child marriage in South Sudan. Under international and regional law, the government of South Sudan has an obligation to prevent, investigate, prosecute, and punish violence against girls and women[16]. The responsibility is grounded in the rights of non-discrimination and equality, security of person, health, and freedom from torture provided in treaties whose human rights obligations South Sudan inherited from Sudan following independence[17].

Child marriage is culturally packaged as a social necessity, but in many cases this amounts to “socially licensed sexual abuse and exploitation of a child” (Forum on Marriage and the Rights of Women and Girls, 2001). It is one of the most persistent forms of sanctioned sexual abuse of girls and young women (IPPF, 2007). The CRC article 34 provides the right to protection from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, and Article 36 further states that the child has a right to protection from all forms of exploitation prejudicial to any aspect of the child's welfare[18]. According to UNICEF (2006), child marriage is a violation of human rights whether it happens to a girl or a boy, but it represents the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls[19].

Conclusion and recommendations

The complexities of the practices of early marriage from the critical perspective of children’s rights are massive. Children have rights that are inalienable and the CRC has been a catalyst and impetus for change as well as pressure for action, however, the level of the implementation of children’s rights is often affected by level of awareness about the laws among different actors including children and adults. It’s also affected by the perception and position of children in their community where they live from cultural, political, economic and religious perspectives. For example, very few children in South Sudan are aware of their rights but also lack where to go when these rights are violated. Children’s rights cannot be separated from needs, for instant, parents living in adjective poverty are placed between a hard place and rock to implement children’s rights, at the same time children rights without the necessary structures and services cannot be implemented. One may ask, what is the purpose of stopping a girl from marrying early when she does not have access to school and the family lives in poverty amidst the cultural practices and norms of child marriage? Parents continue to receive dominate influence once chore children’s rights services are unavailable and this not only undermines the UNCRC but it is one of the reasons the convention is being violated systematically in South Sudan. This fact raise a question of implementation of Children’s rights in a post conflict setting, are there conditions to be considered? The CRC may make statements but different factors come into play for its implementation and the driving force and interpretation are generated by the community in their natural settings where children live. Despite the adoption of the CRC in the Child act 2008, children’s participation is hard to see, best interest of a child is heavily influence by cultural and traditional practices and non discrimination against girl child is widely practiced. The analysis of child marriage in relation to children’s rights standard indicates that while South Sudan adopted UNCRC, communities have not become engaged with human rights discourse. The impetus for change is likely to come from the government of South Sudan to increase steps in ratification of international laws and awareness raising about early marriage and the laws to ensure that the principles of the UNCRC are applied across the government departments and public agencies. Awareness creation would help to make the public understand that children’s rights and right based approach are not threats or imposition of western ideas but an opportunity to review child protection in a constructive way., While resource constraints are a major concern, child marriage is an area where concrete reforms are possible, some reforms can be made without a large investment, and these should be implemented quickly. It is an area in which reforms are vital because the practice constrains the social, educational, health, security, and economic progress of women and girls, their families, and their communities. As a result, failure to combat child marriage is likely to have serious implications for the future development of South Sudan. The Government of South Sudan should take immediate and long-term approaches to protect girls from child and forced marriage and ensure the fulfillment of their human rights. The government through its individual ministry must meet its obligations to uphold rather than violate girls’ and women’s rights and must work together to coordinate efforts to tackle the social, economic and political barriers to implementation of children’s rights that cut across multiple sectors. Meeting the numerous and interrelated challenges which lead to child marriage affecting girls’ education will require a coordinated and holistic response that span across the government systems and the constraining factors in communities. Stakeholders need to be engaged in this response at every level from individuals, civil society organizations working at the grassroots to national and international policy makers. Schools must also take responsibility for providing a safe and gender equitable environment in which girls can obtain the qualifications and skills to ensure a self determined and confident future. At the same time, girls’ capabilities must be expanded through encouragement and empowerment to take an active role in securing their own futures and communities must be encouraged to participate and support their own development by changing their cultural and social attitudes toward gender. NGO interventions and civil society organizations have significant role to play to support and advocate for these social and economic changes. It must be noted that the success of reforms depends on the willingness of governments and communities to challenge prehistoric traditions.

Whereas CRC standards provide a convenient benchmark for developing, implementing and monitoring the practices of early marriage, there is confusion in practices. However the paper acknowledges the significance of the principles and international standards in protecting and providing children’s rights as a platform for references to clear the confusions.


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[1] President Salva Kiir independence-day speech, July 9, 2011,,Speech-In-Full.aspx. (accessed , 19, 2013).

[2] The 1978 Vienna Convention on Succession of States in Respect of Treaties, representative of the current status of international law, provides for the continuity of obligations in respect of all treaties that were binding on a predecessor state. Vienna Convention on Succession of States in Respect of Treaties, adopted August 22, 1978, 1946 U.N.T.S. 3, entered into force November 6 1996, art. 35. The UN Commission on Human Rights and UN Treaty bodies have also underlined the continuing nature of human rights treaty obligations on successor states. UN Commission on Human Rights, “Succession of States in respect of international human rights treaties,” Resolutions 1993/223, 1994/16 and 1995/18; UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment 26, Continuity of obligations (Sixty-first session, 1997), Compilation of General Comments and General Recommendations Adopted by Human Rights Treaty Bodies, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.8/Rev.1 (1997), p. 173.

[3] Child brides are more vulnerable to poverty, a consequence of child marriage as well as a cause (Brown and Sarah 2012; IPPF, 2011).

[4] Sudan gained independence from Britain in 1956.The first southern rebellion against Sudan started in 1962 to 1972 and resulted in a fragile peace deal; this triggered the south’s desire for autonomy. In 1983 war resumed between the north and south when the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) launched a violent struggle for succession. By 2005, the conflict claimed more than two million lives and forced approximately 4 million southerners to flee their homes accessed on11/05/2013

[5] The rights are applied to all aspects of decision making.


[7] The Convention on Consent to Marriage article, (3), Minimum Age for Marriage, and Registration of Marriages states that all ‘marriages should be registered by a competent authority’. The Maputo Protocol article 16 (d) also calls on governments to ensure that all marriages are recorded in writing and registered in accordance with national laws. The CRC committee has also addressed the obligation of governments to make the registration of all births and marriages compulsory and to put in place measures to enforce implementation.

[8] For example see, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 4, Adolescent Health and Development in the Context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, (Thirty-third session, 2003), para. 20. There is an evolving consensus in international law that 18 should be the minimum age for marriage. CRC, art. 1. In the context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, “a child means every human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier."

[9] Before independent of South Sudan.




[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] The Maputo Protocol in article six calls for States to develop laws that establish 18 as the minimum age of marriage; while article 18 of the African Charter requires in article 18 that, “States eliminate every discrimination against women and also ensure the protection of the rights of the woman and the child as stipulated in international declarations and conventions.”

[16] ICCPR, HRC, General Comment 31, Nature of the general legal obligation on states parties to the Covenant (hereinafter "General Comment 31"), para. 9, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.13 (2004); UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), General Comment No. 2: Implementation of Article 2 by States Parties, 24 January 2008.CAT/C/GC/2.

[17] Maputo Protocol, Article 5 (d) and 4 (2f) specifically requires that States take measures to protect women who are at risk of being subjected to harmful practices or all other forms of violence, abuse and intolerance and to establish mechanisms and accessible services for effective information, rehabilitation and reparation for victims of violence against women

[18] The CRC requires that States parties protect children from physical, mental, and sexual abuse or exploitation through legislation and other social and educational measures. The obligation to protect children from violence includes protection from parents or other caregivers (CRC, art. 19)

[19] Available on Accessed on 22/6/2013.

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Children’s rights in Practice. Implementation of Children’s rights in relation to early marriage in South Sudan
University College London  (IOE)
Education, Gender and International Development
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Mary Goretty Oyella (Author), 2013, Children’s rights in Practice. Implementation of Children’s rights in relation to early marriage in South Sudan, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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