Home | News    Friday 11 March 2011

Lakes state officials says men, imprisoned for making girls pregnant, should be released

By Manyang Mayom

March 10, 2011 (RUMBEK) – Lakes state’s advisor for gender and human rights, Adak Costa Mapuor, has appealed for men imprisoned, under the state’s controversial law against impregnating girls to be released.

JPEG - 77.3 kb
Lakes state advisor on gender and human right affairs Adak Costa Mapuor. (ST)

Over 50 men are in custody due to the law brought in by the state government in an attempt to limit pregnancy outside of marriage and pregnancy of girls under 15 years. According to Costa pregnancy outside marriage is not a crime in Dinka culture, the predominant ethnic group in the area, and therefore the men should be released.

The Lakes state human rights adviser said: “Pregnancy of girls is not a crime in Dinka customs – please set free those boy who are kept in custody due to elopement of girls cases – those boy have not make offense, at all both in Dinka costmary law and constitution - love is natural feeling of human being and marriage is full responsibility of family.”

However, she did say that the government needed to intervene if both parents disagree on marriage procedures.

The president of high court in Lakes state, Geri Raimondo Legge said on March 8 that intended to raise the sentence for young men who impregnated girls to 25 years imprisonment. Judge Raimondo, said that due to instances of intimidation across Lakes state, he needed to make sure people were aware of the law.

Lakes state’s main correctional prison service is holding 58 young men for the crime. Among those incarcerated are two university student s and a 14 years old boy, who is accused of having sex with an underage girl. The state’s leading judge said that he was increasing the sentence to 25 years as after mitigation it would be reduced to 10 or 14 years.

Even before the stricter sentencing youth groups have protested against the law.

The speaker of Lakes state’s parliament, John Marik Makur, denied that the law being applied by judge Raimondo was the same as the copy passed by the state’s parliament. Marik said that the Customary Law passed by the state parliament did not mention arresting young men who had impregnated girls.

However, Judge Raimondo, says that he is acting legally using section 273 of the Customary Law, which talk of kidnapping and child abduction as well section 247, which talk of underage sex and rape.

Young men who are under arrest under say they are being held unjustly. Across the eight counties of Lakes state groups have protested against the laws and the imprisonment of the men.

Some young people and organisations have vowed not to re-elected incumbent governor Chol Tong Mayay at the next election. However, the Lakes state governor has promised that the judge of High Court in Lakes state Geri Raimondo Legge could not be replaced until the Supreme Court in the South’s capital Juba appoints a replacement.

On Tuesday the Sudan country director of Women for Women International, Karak Mayik, condemned the law saying that impregnating a girl in Dinka society is not considered a crime. Judge Raimondo should take note of this she said.

She said that the community needed to “select the best parts and throw away the bad parts” of culture and treat men and women equally.

“Pregnancy is not a crime we need to have equal judgment. Let us stop beating our sisters if she gets pregnant, she is going to give birth to a new baby which could become president.”

Rumbek prison

Col. Kamis Angui, who is in charge of prisoners inside Rumbek’s main prison said March 8 that the numbers of prisoners was increasing.

The men sentenced for getting a girl pregnant are held alongside murderers, thieves and those held for driving offenses. He said that 486 people were being held at the prison. Despite the large numbers Angui said that conditions were good in the prison and inmates were healthy and well fed.

In Rumbek prison Sudan Tribune spoke to Simon Makur Marik a third year university student who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. He says he has been wrongly convicted and accused Judge Raimondo of not giving him a fair hearing.

“I was in the process of getting married but Judge Raimondo put me in jail, without hearing a word from my parents. My parent s agreed to me marrying this girl but Raimondo misused books of law such as the Child Act, Penal Code Act and Lakes state customary law to sentence me to ten years without hearing my defense.”

He explained that if you impregnate a girl under 15 years of age, then Raimondo will sentence you to jail for ten years, saying that you have impregnated an underage girl. Makur said “ this judge does not look back into Dinka cultures, h e just imposed what he thinks as an Equatorian man, who lacks the culture to be respected. We Dinka consider girls who menstruate as mature and she deserves to become woman immediately.”

Makur said that “the life of entire youth is at mess here in Lakes state due to this wrong law.”

Majith Makoi, a student in Jier primary school, arrested on 25 December, 2010 said “this law is being imposed on us, they are not working in other states of Southern Sudan – this law is harmful to us people of Lakes state – we are suffering.”

He was senetenced to five years imprisonment and a ten cow fine.

According to William Ater, another man arrested for the crime, Judge Raimondo is applying laws which have not been passed by the Lakes state Assembly.

“I seriously blame the governor of Lakes state and the judge, for allowing such a law to be applied to his supporters. As soon as we get out from this jail we are going to campaign to abandon marrying Rumbek girls. We have to marry girls from neighbouring states.

International Women’s Day

Thousands of people gathered in Freedom Square Rumbek, the capital of Lakes state, on Tuesday to celebrate International Women’s Day. Various organisations in Lakes took the opportunity to call on the judiciary to set free the young men who had been jailed using the controversial law.

The subject of promoting girls child education featured prominently during the celebrations, with speakers calling for concrete measures to curb early and forced marriages.

Adak Costa Mapuor, the Advisor for Gender and Human Right Affairs in Lakes State, said that the empowerment of women in South Sudan can be the best achieved through education. She affirmed that many years of war has slowed down women from pursuing education.

Costa said that although the 2005 deal peace deal and the South’s vote to become independent offered a conducive environment to spread girls education across South Sudan.

There are still other obstacles to be surmounted, she said, maintaining that gender sensitive policies to promote girl child education are needed to get women out of their present quagmire.

She also cited women themselves as a barrier to their own full empowerment, explaining that some women have entrusted to their young daughters’ family responsibilities that prevent them from pursuing formal education. The empowerment of women, she said, can be the best achieved through education. She said that many years of war slowed progress in women’s literacy.

Costa also appealed to Lakes State government leadership to improve water access, maintaining that with water close by, girls will be dedicate their time to books rather than collecting water. She also said that this would allow families to be more economically empowered through farming.

Dhieu Wal, the Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Chairman in Lakes State Legislative Assembly, repeated the message stating that empowerment of women has to begin with girl child education.

He also castigated the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program of the United Nations in Lakes state that brings to Rumbek women from different locations in the state in view of giving them skills in running a business.

Wal said that the capital of 200 Sudanese Pounds given to the women after three months of training was not enough to start a businesses across eight counties of Lakes state. However, he said that the another UN programme run by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had succeeded in empowering women economically through the provision of farming tools.

Speaking on behalf of the governor of Lakes state, the deputy governor Daniel Ayuol Makoi quoted the South’s former president and rebel leader John Garang, saying that “women in Sudan are the marginalized of the marginalized people”. He further said that many women in South Sudan have not much to celebrate on International Women’s Day.

He joined other voices in calling for equal education opportunities for girls, advocating for policies that discourage the marriage of underage girls.

Lakes state has in the recent past experienced cases of girls resisting early and forced marriages in favour of education. In extreme cases, some girls have committed suicide. There have also been cases of girls being killed by their families after becoming pregnant or refusing to marry men chosen by the family. This is often accredited to the bride price paid or dowry paid to the family of the girl.