Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 23 December 2010

The punishments outweigh the rewards for crimes in Lakes State

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Maker Mabor Marial

December 23, 2010 — Coming across a Sudan Tribune’s last week article titled; Three young men sentenced to ten years in Sudan’s Rumbek for impregnating girls, it was a big shock to find out that these young men are the latest victims of yet another failing legislature in Lakes State. Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Lakes State has experienced high rate of crimes, cattle rustling, conflicts among clans, abuse of power, bad governance, corruption, forced marriages; violence against women, and young girls.

Yet, in the midst of all these the State Legislative Assembly was only able to pass this law the youth in the state called “akin to adopting shariah laws widely applied in North Sudan.”

According to Gurtong’s website, “a new customary law that was amended this year by the State Legislative Assembly dictates that any young man who impregnates a girl will be sentenced to ten years in prison besides being fined 3,00 Sudanese Pounds and three cows.”

Indeed, as the new law went into effect a few months ago, four young men, Matur Meen Mading, Mathiang Dhaal Manyiel, Thon Marier Thuc, and Sabit Gum Jangeth, who has escaped, were each sentenced to a ten-year prison term and required to pay all the associated fines. Two other young men, Thaat Arop Ater and Makoi Wade Kuc were each sentenced to six years in prison, while Mayom Bil, another young man accused of committing similar crime is yet to be sentenced. All these rulings are believed to have been handed downed in the periods of late October through early December. However, it’s not clear why Thaak Arop Ater and Makoi Wade Kuc were each sentenced six years in prison for similar crimes.

Judge defends his rulings

In his justification to what these bizarre court’s rulings, Judge Geri Raimondo Leggi said that the court’s decision was based on the new customary law.

“The law being used to sentence the accused is a new customary law amended by Lakes State Assembly members this year. The new law customary law demanded that young man who impregnates a girl must be sentenced to ten years in prison and must pay 3,000 SDG ($ 1,207), and three cows,” (Sudan Tribune, Dec 8, 2010).

However, for many the new law is believed to be against the “Dinka customary principles” because it contradicts the way cases of young girls’ pregnancies are handled in the Dinka society.

Governor’s position

Lakes State Gov. Chol Tong Mayay in reaction to the rulings reaffirmed the Judge Leggi’s statement by saying that the amendment to the customary law was to fight the high rate of school girls’ early pregnancies and school drop outs.

“This customary law was amended by Lakes State lawmakers with aim to reduce the high of pregnancy levels in the state.” Gov. Mayay also added that “a good number of girls had dropped out of school due to early pregnancies,” (Sudan Tribune, Dec 8, 2010).

However, do we really need to punish young men harshly to protect the young girls from early pregnancies and school dropouts? Why the governor is only concerned with the young girls who voluntarily consent to sexual encounter with young men, and not hundreds of young school girls who are forced into marriages against their wills each year in LS? What can the state government do to protect them?

The truth to the matter is that the LS Legislators together with their Governor got it all wrong to adopt this peculiar law as a way to protect girls. They should have instead make laws that are appropriate and serve their purposes. The laws that should have been made by Lakes State Legislative Assembly are laws that would have protected the young girls such as 15 year old; Adut Makur Makat who was forced into marriage against her will in October this year, a few weeks before her final exams. Ms. Matak was a dictated form II student at Hope and Resurrection Secondary School in Atiaba, Rumbek East County who wanted to remain in school and finish her education however the LS government couldn’t protect her.

Furthermore, the Lakes State legislators should have come up with laws to protect students like Martha Athou Lueth who was beaten to death by her father after being impregnated by her boyfriend from primary school. She was 16 years old and also a dedicated 1st year student at Hope and Resurrection Secondary School at Atiaba Payam in Rumbek East County.

As well, a 17 year old Nyikada Ngoki from Wulu County, another student who shot herself to death after being forced to marry a man who had paid 3,000 SDG ($ 1,268) in dowries to her parents but she didn’t want him.

The real issue affecting girls’ education in LS

Forced marriage is an issue affecting girl’s education in Lakes State, and not early pregnancies as Gov. Mayay had claimed. Hundreds of school girls are forced out of primary and secondary schools each year in Lakes State due to forced marriages. The state government on the other hand is believed to be very weak in its positions and does not confront parents when they force their daughters as young as 12 or 15 who are doing very well in school into marriage against their wills.

The better laws the Lakes State Legislative Assembly should have made

If Lakes State Legislators were to make laws, I think laws against forced marriages, abuse against women, alcoholism; and addiction, and criminal laws specifically designed to combat crimes of all sorts should have been prioritized to ensure peace and tranquility in the state. On the other hand, the cases of young girls’ pregnancies which I seriously believe as none criminal should therefore be left up to the traditional chiefs to decide them.

So, the recent revised customary law that criminalizes and harshly punishes young men for impregnating girls irrespective of the nature of their encounters leading to pregnancies is a misstep of the law and a failure of the Lakes State Legislators to make laws that are relevant and serve the purpose.

Hence, the court’s rulings against these young men aimed at punishing them for impregnating the young girls should be considered null and void because the rulings are inappropriate as they outweigh the alleged crimes.

On the other hand, the Wath-alel customary law which clearly spells out some punishments and fines in the cases of young girls’ pregnancies should be revisited. This law allows for the man to pay one heifer calf to compensate for the damage and a small court fine as a punishment for when he refuses to marry the girl he has impregnated.

Impregnating a girl is not a crime but rather an act of fulfillment of love between the two partners. Even among the Lakes State lawmakers, there are some who have impregnated girls at some points, and will still do it because it’s a part of life.

Alternatively, the viable solution to early pregnancies among young girls in LS is for the government to launch a massive education to educate these young people on the risks of engaging in unprotected sex, and the consequences for having children at the young age.

Thus, locking up young men for a ten years prison plus a fine of 3,000 SDG, and three cows for impregnating girls is not a solution to the problem but rather destruction to their lives! Therefore, the new law ought to be repealed!

The author of this article is a citizen of Lakes Statesis based in the United States. He can be reached at makermarial@hotmail.com.

P.S.

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  • 23 December 2010 08:40, by John Ruei

    Dear readers
    I would like to comment about this customary law of Lakes which young men and girls are always talking for many days. In pact I regarded this customary law as the law of Agar and Gok communities why because it is relatd to their culture.
    But for people of Greator Yirol this law must be impoossible to apply because Greater Yirol has no many cases which caused by pregnacies.
    The cultue of the community of Yirol give a girl ful responsibility to protect her self and it is not a somebody who will enforce law on young men or somebody to escape not to interact with girls.
    The custom of greater Yirol also give a man who has a doughter to build a separate house for his doughter to commodate her boyfriends without consultation of her parents.
    In a village a young man come to girl house and cliab up, there the girl will come to see that man if she desire to accommodate him to sleep in her room or not she will decide to do so and if a man will pregnant a girl later who will be accountable is it a man or parents who build separate room for their dougter? the culture it self is a problem and if you want to apply this customary law to young men of greator Yirol please you better to change this culture before aaplication of law. but for Agar and Gok this act will cause problem and this one is well known even people of Rumbek East know this custom of Atuot.

    For my best knowledge I hope this law was passed while members of Yirol were absence and if they were present what they were doing? do they need to please Agar and Gok whose their lives depend on girls as their mean in come? or do they representing their communities who selected them so that they should represent them in any difficulties they face?.
    these questions will not be answer by any body accepte members of Greator Yirol who are representing their people in state legislative assembly.

    I and many people know very well that the work of members of legislature is to present their community in any difficulties rather than betarying the right of their culture and people who make them to be in this position.

    With these few words I would like to ask judges of Lakes state not to apply this customary law to young men of Greator Yirol before the culture has changed, because they are victim on these laws.The laws are against the custom of Atuot and Ciec and if they are against the custom then no application of them on the innocent people.

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  • 26 December 2010 19:38, by Martin Noah

    Maker, I have absolutely agree with you on this. This law is absurd and it is against Agar’s long standing tradition of handling this kind of behavior. If people who have a consentual sex are given this punishment, what would be the punishment for those who rape girls, kill innocent people, embezzle public money, or any other worst crime? The punishment must fit the crime but that is not the case here. Would the governor or whoever involved in drafting this law be ready to hand himself in to serve 10 years in jail if they happen to impregnate someone’s daughter? In my opinion, someone who impregnates a girl, must be required to marry that girl. The governor or judge cannot force laws on people that they do not agree with unless these legislators are engaged in dictatorship.

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    • 28 December 2010 23:59, by mack waweru

      This "Law" has shown that Lakes State’s assembly members passed what they don’t know or they have adopted the policies of the Arab north. This is a Taliban State because you cannot adopt and apply laws which are contrary to the customary laws and culture of the people concerned. Dinka people have no "jail" in their culture where wrong doers are locked up and imprisoned, but options like fine or possible marriage to a girl one had impregnated are applied. I wish they could have only raised the fine to ten cows if one impregnates the girl and then refuse to marry her to make the law compatible with the Dinka system and I believe that this way of dealing with such social issues is to serve justice to all. In Dinka culture, even a person who has killed another person is asked to pay compensation instead of death sentence or imprisonment, but it’s quite strange to us how this came about in Lakes State.
      The state legislature must revoke this law and come up with social code of conduct to safeguard the wellbeing of school age girls and girls in general, but not in this bizzare manner. Impregnating a girl is not a crime in our culture to warrant such foreign law that sentences young men to ten years in jail. This is tantamount to ignorant on the part of lawmakers and their enforcers. Which law college did they studied this law that criminalize the result of intimate relationships between young people?

      These people have to know that women are the majority in Southern Sudan because men had perished in the war, which means that majority of the girls will end up living as spinsters without getting married and the lucky ones are the ones being impregnated. Therefore, what need to done is how to address and take care of those involes to raise a family and be provided with necessary support from the government. Social Fund programmes have to be initiated by the Ten State Governments to address such issues instead of applying unjust and useless laws.

      Mack Awer

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  • 31 December 2010 08:36, by Antipas Gorom

    It is of high gratitude Maker to show that we are the icons of this state that has been plaqued with such flagrant laws of nuisance and disgrace under the pretext of girl child’s protection.

    it would have been wise to declare war on Youth rather than giving this wrong dose of law, these are wandering Laws ever formulated by our legislators.Mayayi and his members should know that power to resist wrong Laws is due.

    am very annoyed and left with nothing to say but to decompaign that law to the last atom of justice, this is rediculous and dehumanising.

    these MPs are excited of being in parliament for they did not expect their being there! they came under the realm of SPLM puting us under claustrophoebic situation where some youth who are not in government are seen as renegad should you question the state of affairs.

    They are behaving today as if they came to power by force, we are all witness and affected by such egocentric plans against youth.

    ANTIPAS GOROM

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