by Deng Kur Deng
With our diverse backgrounds, I thought we, the Lost Boys, should play major role in tackling child marriage and child abuse because we know it better. However, I’ve witnessed the opposite outcome, as some of us got involved with younger girls who are considered underage in the Western world. We must stop this behavior and put self-interest behind us for the safety of children.
I know that many of the Lost Boys are formidable leaders, but I have yet to see them fighting for children’s safety in our communities. I would like us all to be practical with our leadership by dedicating ourselves to the cause protecting children. Here in the United States, anyone who is purposefully “involved” with minors can end up in jail, let alone the ramifications of marrying one. And we are informed on this reality. In fact, some of our members are very persuasive individuals who understand the context of our cultures and have offered better ways of addressing child marriages; however, some of these very influential scholars have abandoned their responsibilities of protecting children and are instead caught up in the practices that are universally condemned.
Let us be serious for a second: the Lost Boys are still involved in the marriage of children even today, and their participation in this practice has reached an insulting level. Imagine, when we arrived in these Western countries, many of us talked at length about the human rights violations committed against us, but now, some of us are violating these human rights against children. To be honest, this is unacceptable, as it is contrary to what we’re fighting for.
We must be very consistent with our calls for justice when we talk about human rights, particularly those regarding children. In terms of the Lost Boys’ actions, their fading understanding of human rights and child abuse has left me speechless. Like their fathers before them, some of them believe in illogical perceptions, such as the belief that young girls make better wives than the older ones; this is a pure misconception and has created more and more divorces in the end.
I would like to say this bluntly for clarification: There are various types of divorces among the Lost Boys. I am not speaking for adults who end their marriages with specific claims, but that the divorce between children who have not reached their maturity yet. Adults who were married divorce for the reasons known to them, but early teenagers who were married before they reached the appropriate maturity level are now divorced or seeking divorce in order to fit in with their peers. This process is part of regaining self-consciousness is something you may hardly blame these children for doing.
The married children who are then choosing divorce are doing so because they would like to experience a childlike life. For instance, over the course of their marriages, a considerable number of those young married girls didn’t demonstrate any sort of willingness during their marriages because they were forced or arranged marriages. Those sort of unions are common in our communities, so I must ask: How do you blame the young girls who are resorting to this strategy in their marriages? I am not saying they should divorce or tear their families apart, but these are the facts that I have observed in our communities today. I know that getting married is an exciting, life-changing journey, but getting divorced is a direct result of complex emotional turmoil and a stressful life. And still, some of us Lost Boys have yet to learn from this lesson.
It is good to get married to someone with whom you have established an understanding of life, but that does not mean it is good to marry a young girl. Sadly, for many Lost Boys, even if they would divorce one little girl, they would end up marrying another little girl who would then be even more likely to seek divorce. Even if it wasn’t evident from the previous marriage, many men enter into this second phase of marriages under the cloud of drama and depression.
Truly, the problem is not just about divorce, but about people marrying young girls, when those same people are old enough to understand how that marriage endangers the teenage girls. As visible members of our communities, we must first reexamine our principles related to children and also assume the responsibility of those children whose vulnerability has put them at stake; this is our strategic, vital role.
Many of the Lost Boys have witnessed child marriage in high numbers. A lot of people do not know that a great number of the Lost Boys are sound-minded scholars, but in spite of their apparent intelligence, these groups have failed to define what is considered a “child.” As a result, their search for wives has overshadowed sensitive social issues regarding under ages. Still, that is no excuse, and what confuses me the most about the Lost Boys is their involvement in child marriage without a second thought about the age of the girls they are marrying, especially in light of the horrors many of them have witnessed related to child marriages. There is nothing logical about this kind of practice in our society, even if it is associated with cultural tradition.
What is really frightening about the Lost Boys is that many of them were children at the time of the Sudanese civil war; therefore, they have endured a painful life. But in spite of that, some of them are not concerned about inflicting trauma on young girls, especially the increased risk of death during birth. Again, we are all aware that many of the Lost Boys are well-informed about the differences between a child and an adult who is ready for marriage, but some of these very Lost Boys have still not been very constructive in their choice of wives. The outcome of such decisions have consequences, including divorce.
In the minds of many Lost Boys, divorce is quite drastic, but my brothers continue to pursue young girls who are not adults yet, so I felt to urge and highlight this pressing concern. Moreover, the decision not to divorce can often be equally traumatic. In a lot of the cases I’ve seen, if the husband and wife do not divorce, both of them end up living a stressful life because they are constantly fighting. Depression among Lost Boys and their wives is very high. But as South Sudanese, we don’t talk about family issues, so many problems are sealed up and kept deep inside our hearts. We the Lost Boys must do our share to protect the children in South Sudan. We must never forget that once, we were the children.
This article was written by Deng Kur Deng, AKA, Raanmangar. You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org