Sudan: Activists Speak Out Against Child Marriage
Wednesday, July 10, 2013 4:20 PM

In Sudan girls as young as 10 are allowed to marry under the country's1991 Personal Status Law of Muslims. The Sudanese Organisation for Research and Development (SORD) and other human rights activists have recently spoken out against these laws.  Khadija Al-Dowahi, a member of SORD said, “The personal status laws basically state that girls can get married when they are old enough to be able to comprehend matters.”
The United Nations Children’s Fund reports that one-third of Sudanese women between the ages of 20 to 24 were married before they were 18. SORD research shows that young girls in refugee camps are more likely to face early marriage than other girls. Additionally, in rural areas, 39 percent of marriages were child marriages. Although child marriages occur less frequently in urban areas, 22 percent of marriages in urban areas were child marriages, reflecting an increase from previous years because of increasingly unfavorable economic conditions in Sudan and a desire for families to “preserve their girls from the corruption of the city.”  
Advocates in Sudan also emphasize how child marriage can lead to unique problems for young brides. The hospital in Khartoum has an entire ward dedicated to obsetric fistula, a condition faced by young mothers whose bodies are too underdeveloped to properly give birth. Additionally, regardless of the age girls get married, women in Sudan cannot file for divorce until the age of 18.
In addition to research and advocacy, SORD has responded to child marriage in Sudan by establishing a legal aid center for young brides. Since the center opened three months ago, SORD has received 46 cases of women unfairly impacted by personal status laws. Girls Not Brides is a coalition of non-governmental organizations that advocates against viewing young girls as economic commodities. Lakshmi Sundaram, global coordinator for Girls Not Brides states, “We have to address the fundamental aspect that a girl has intrinsic value as a human being, not just a value cost.”
Compiled from: Abbas, Reem, “Time to Let Sudan’s Girls Be Girls, Not Brides,” Inter Press Service (10 July 2013).