Teen girl in South Sudan auctioned off for marriage on Facebook

A 16-year-old South Sudanese girl was sold for marriage via Facebook in a disturbing case that’s been described as “reminiscent of latter-day slave markets.”

The winning bid in the auction was for 500 cows, three cars and $10,000, and the girl was married off at a ceremony on 3rd November in the country’s Eastern Lakes State, according to Plan International, a humanitarian organisation focused on children’s rights.

Country director of Plan International South Sudan, George Otim, said in a statement:

“This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets. 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.”

Facebooksaid it removed the post as soon it became aware of it on 9th November, days after Plan International said she was married off on 3rd November.  Vice News reports that the post calling for bids was published on 25th October.

“Any form of human trafficking whether posts, pages, ads or groups that co-ordinate this activity are not allowed on Facebook. As soon as we were made aware of this post we worked quickly to remove the content and associated profile,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

By South Sudan law, women and girls have the right to consent to marriage, and a child under the age of 18 should not be subject to exploitation or abuse.

Anti-child marriage organisation Girls Not Brides explained that “many South Sudanese communities see child marriage as a way to protect girls from pre-marital sex and unwanted pregnancies.”

UNICEF estimates more than half of girls in South Sudan are married off before their 18th birthday, with the ongoing conflict within the country pushing families towards forced marriages as a way to get money. Plan International wants the South Sudanese government to investigate the Facebook marriage auction.

Taban Abel, information minister in the state of Eastern Lakes, told Reuters that the girl had gone into hiding in the country’s capital, Juba.

This incident is another example of Facebook failing to resolve monitoring issues as its reach expands across the globe.

Slavery in the New Forest

Little Testwood Farm - slavery

I was shocked and saddened to read this headline: “Eight men rescued from suspected slavery Little Testwood Farm in Calmore“:

POLICE have rescued eight men from a site in Totton following an investigation into potential slavery and servitude.

Officers from Hampshire Constabulary, supported by the National Crime Agency, executed a warrant around 6am today at Little Testwood Farm on Salisbury Road, Calmore.  The men are aged between 21 and 46 and are a mix of Romanian, Latvian and Polish nationalities.  Police also recovered industrial equipment that is believed to have been stolen.

A 27-year-old man from Luton was arrested on suspicion of knowingly holding another person in slavery or servitude and remains in custody.

The men have been taken to a survivor reception centre where they are receiving emotional and practical support. The centre is run by officers from Amberstone, Hampshire Constabulary’s specialist interview support team, with assistance from the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Hampshire County Council and the NHS.

Detective Inspector Phil Scrase from Southampton CID said:

“As this morning’s action shows, we’ll take swift action against anyone suspected of exploiting vulnerable members of society for their own gain.  We know that people are being trafficked, exploited and enslaved across the country including here in Hampshire.  I’d urge anyone with concerns, suspicions or information that could help our enquiries to contact us in confidence.  For example, if you’re being offered cheap labour that’s too good to be true for the amount it costs, ask yourself: who’s really paying?”

Anyone with information about slavery, servitude, exploitation or trafficking can call the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.  If you don’t want to speak to the police directly, you can also call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or the national slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700