Forced, Early Marriage Part of “old mentality” to Denounce: Catholic Bishop in South Sudan

Bishop Emmanuel Bernardino Lowi Napeta of South Sudan's Torit Diocese. Credit: CRN

Forcing young girls into marriage is part of the “old mentality” that should be challenged and denounced in South Sudan, the Catholic Bishop of the country’s Torit Diocese has said.

Bishop Emmanuel Bernardino Lowi Napeta who was speaking during his Tuesday, May 30 visit to Bishop Sisto Mazzoldi Primary and Secondary Schools in his Episcopal See appealed to elders in the community to spearhead the disapproval of forced and early marriages.

“During my pastoral visits, I heard some elders are forcing their girls to get married while still young because of cows,” Bishop Napeta said, adding, “I want our elders to denounce these issues of forced and early marriages because it stops the girls from getting the education they want.”

“This old mentality needs to be challenged to allow the girls to get quality education,” he said. 

The 49-year-old Catholic Church leader who was Consecrated Bishop of Torit on January 15 underscored the value of girlchild education, saying it has contributed to change in society because women “are always more effective in developmental issues.”


“Education makes the impossible possible because one can be able to think positively,” he said, and added, “Educated people usually think for a better tomorrow, that's why I challenge these young people to work hard to achieve quality education.”

According to the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA), more than 10 girls are forced into marriage every week in South Sudan, and over 50% of all girls in the East-Central African nation are married before the age of 18, which leads to many of these girls dropping out of school.

In his address during the May 30 visit to Bishop Sisto Mazzoldi Primary and Secondary Schools, Bishop Napeta said many girls who are forced into early marriages are exposed challenges, including domestic violence.

“When you force your child into early marriage, she may be irresponsible,” he said, and explained, “She may not be able to handle her home or even speak to the people of the community.”

The South Sudanese Catholic Bishop appealed to parents to take care of their children until they are mature and responsible members of society. 

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He said, “We have to take care of our children because those who are promoting forced and early marriages are preventing the bright future of young girls in South Sudan.”

Bishop Napeta also appealed to pupils and students in South Sudan “to work hard for their future” by investing their time in formal education. 

Patrick Juma Wani is a South Sudanese journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. Patrick holds a Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from Makerere Institute for Social Development (MISD) in Uganda. He has over 7 years of extensive experience in leading the development and implementation of media, advocacy, communication and multimedia strategy and operations, with an excellent track record of editorial leadership, budget management, and stakeholder outreach. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.