Woman Beaten to Death by Family for Refusing to Marry for 40 Cows

April 30, 2019 Updated: April 30, 2019

A young woman in South Sudan was beaten to death by her brothers for refusing to wed a suitor who is said to have offered her family 40 cows in exchange for the 20-year-old’s hand in marriage.

Taban Abel, a state minister in Sudan, was cited by Radio Tamazuj as saying that Nyaluk Magorok was murdered in the town of Yirol in Eastern Lakes State by her own family members because she turned down the arranged marriage proposal.

Abel, who serves as Minister of Information in Eastern Lakes, told the news outlet that Magorok’s parents tried to force her to marry a man who offered 40 cows to the family as dowry.

Sudan cattle keeper
File photo showing a Sudanese girl from the Dinka tribe working as a cattle keeper, at a cattle camp in Mingkaman, Lakes State, South Sudan, on March 3, 2018. (Stefanie Glinski/AFP/Getty Images)

The furious father reportedly ordered that the reticent bride-to-be face punishment at the hands of her brothers.

“The father was one who ordered people to kill his daughter because she refused to get married,” Abel told Radio Tamazuj.

The minister denounced the killing as “barbaric” and vowed to tackle the problem of violence in the context of arranged marriage practices.

boy tending to cattle
File photo showing a Sudanese boy from the Dinka tribe tending to a cow at a cattle camp in Mingkaman, Lakes State, South Sudan, on March 4, 2018. (Stefanie Glinski/AFP/Getty Images)

‘This is a barbaric act that needs immediate intervention from the government. This is the second incident of its kind because last year a girl was impregnated and then her father beat her to death,” Abel said.

South Sudan has a deeply rooted cultural practice of paying dowries for brides. In rural areas, this often comes in the form of cows.

The country also has a long history of child marriage.

While child marriage is illegal in South Sudan, the United Nations Population Fund estimates that at least 40 percent of girls still marry before age 18.

“Child marriage is outright wrong, yet it is deeply entrenched in the culture of the country,” says UNFPA Country Representative Dr. Mary Otieno. “I say ‘outright wrong’ because it puts at stake the very lives and future of South Sudan’s adolescent girls.”

The UNFPA calls child marriage a situation “exacerbated by the crisis, which has left many people in extreme poverty and with limited alternatives to life. Marrying off a girl child, usually to a much older man, is therefore seen as a source of income.”

Article 17 of war-torn South Sudan’s Constitution is said to guarantee women and girls the right to refuse marriage, according to the Daily Mail.

map of Yirol south sudan
The young woman was killed in the town of Yirol, in Eastern Lakes state, South Sudan. (Google Maps)

“Forcing someone to marry against their will is a clear violation of South Sudan’s own constitution as well as its international human rights obligations,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes Region.

Amnesty has called on the government of South Sudan to take urgent steps to end early, forced, and child marriage.

“The marriage and killing are not only illegal but also inhumane. We call on the government to immediately hold the responsible individuals to account.”

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