Child bride auction on Facebook ‘reminiscent of slave markets’

22 Nov 2018

South Sudan. Image: © Wollwerth Imagery/

Use of social network to sell a girl for marriage to highest bidder slammed as barbaric use of modern technology.

Plan International has called on the South Sudanese government to investigate an auction on Facebook that led to the child marriage of a 17-year-old girl.

The girl’s father reportedly received 500 cows, three cars and $10,000 in exchange for his daughter, who was married off to the winning bidder at a ceremony on 3 November in the country’s Eastern Lakes state.

‘That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world’s biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief’

According to Plan International, a humanitarian body focused on children’s rights and equality for girls, five men participated in the auction, some of whom are reportedly high-ranking government officials.

Call for investigation into human trafficking via social media

Facebook said that it became aware of the girl’s father’s post on 9 November and removed it within 24 hours.

“Any form of human trafficking, whether posts, pages, ads or groups, is not allowed on Facebook,” the social network stated. “We removed the post and permanently disabled the account belonging to the person who posted this to Facebook.”

However, Plan International wants further action and to prevent any similar occurrences using 21st-century technology.

“This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets,” said George Otim, country director of Plan International South Sudan. “That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world’s biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief.

“While it is common for dowries to be used in marriages in South Sudanese culture, nothing can excuse the way this girl – who is still a child – has been treated as nothing more than an object, sold off to the bidder prepared to offer the most money and goods.

“Plan International is calling on the South Sudanese government to investigate this matter and suspend any officials who took part in the bidding. We would encourage any girls who find themselves in similar situations of forced and early marriages to report these to the police.”

Otim said that the evils of child marriage can have profound consequences on a child’s survival, health, education, development and wellbeing, and the practice is often carried out against their will and best interests.

“Girls who marry are at a high risk of early childbearing, maternal mortality and are also often socially isolated, cut off from family and friends and other sources of support.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years