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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.