13th June 2024
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How South Sudanese suffer stigma over late marriage

Authors: Michael Daniel | Hellen Samuel | Published: Thursday, February 8, 2024

Eye Radio's Focal Group Discussion on Psychological and Emotion violence. (Awan Moses)

Getting married at a later age and not being able to have children immediately after marriage are some of the biggest psycho-social issues facing South Sudanese and could lead to emotional abuse, legal and cultural experts have said.

The observation was made during a 26th January 2024 Eye Radio Focal Group Discussion on Psychological and Emotional Violence in the Society.

The forum of about ten participants comprising 7 women and 3 men from cultural backgrounds and legal professions was aimed to understand public perception of psychological and emotional violence.

Victoria Knight, Program Manager at Youth Women Christian Association (YWCA) opened up about her experience where she said she has been the subject of family stigma over her delayed marriage.

“I have not been married yet. Sometimes we are psychologically harmed by the words of the parents who say, why haven’t you gotten married yet, without taking into consideration my feelings and my reaction,” she said during the discussion.

“They further say, ‘we have other children waiting for your marriage so they can get married.’”

Ms. Knight lamented that many families do not care about their children’s decisions and future more than they do about societal perceptions.

“This pressure reflects negatively on us, as we abstain from going to social events for fear of this question. When will you get married?”

She also narrated the story of her friend who was married but did not have children.

“The family blamed her, yet the problem was with her husband whom she covered for because she cared so much for him. Despite that, she was humiliated by her mother-in-law until she could not take it any longer and decided to ask for a divorce.”

“She was able to re-marry and had a child with her second husband. After learning this, her former husband was psychologically disturbed and began drinking alcohol heavily.”

Victoria said educating communities about the impact of psychological violence is one of the steps to minimize the negative impact of the phenomenon that she says affects both men and women.

She also suggests that survivors of psychological and emotional abuse should seek counselling and also approach others who have gone through the same abuse for advice.

Psychological and emotional violence refers to forms of abuse that harm an individual’s mental and emotional well-being rather than causing physical harm, according to experts.

Meanwhile, emotional abuse is a form of psychological manipulation that can have long-lasting effects on a person’s mental and emotional well-being.

Veronica Lucy, Executive Director – Association for Media Women in South Sudan (AMWISS) reflects on another type of psychological violence in which children are named after negative family situation or misunderstandings.

Ms Lucy said names like Taban (tired) and Abau (rejected) have negative connotation that will be reflected in the child’s life when he/she grows up and learns about the reason behind the naming.

“One of my neighbors committed suicide because he could not bear the dispute between his mother and his wife due to their lack of understanding and the mother’s interference in their lives,” she testified.

On his part, James John, one of the participants intervened and said psychological violence or abuse, in most cases, comes from extended families.

“We often find relative peace between the spouses, but the intervention of some individuals causes a lot of misunderstanding between couples,” he said.

John said he believes that circumstances force many people to live with extended families, whom he says are the prime cause of social stigma, especially against women.

He encouraged the government to enact family law to safeguard women’s rights.

Another participant, Emmanuel Lado gave examples of scenarios in his neighborhood, where two young people committed suicide over a lack of psycho-social support.

Lado said, generally, some people can handle psychological abuse while others do not have the ability to do so and stressed the need for mental health support to the silent victims of psychological violence.

In his opinion, Elia Isaiah, another participant said that one of the most common ways in which psychological violence manifests itself is in marriage.

“Sometimes, parents tell you that you should not marry from this society, adding to that the effects of marital infidelity on both parties which may cause reluctance to marry again.”

Mr Isaiah said overcoming psychological violence means some harmful customs and traditions must be abolished.

Alice Soro is a legal advisor with Steward Women Organization.

She said the society must end harmful cultural practices that tend to uplift men and tramples women, as well as creating awareness about the important of equal rights for men, women and children.

“People should engage in business activities to avoid redundancy because unemployment can lead to psychological disturbance, educate children such that they are informed about the impact of GBV, and the government should enact strong policies to end drug abuse because drug use is one of the causes of psychological violence and emotional abuse.”

Steward women have counsellors who give psycho-social support to survivors as well as those provided by the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare within the GBV/Juvenile court.

The counsellor first of all ascertains the needs of the survivor of GBV by involving directly with the survivor.

The counsellor identifies the place where they can speak from, the safety of the survivor, the person (male or female) then the psycho-social-support is offered depending on the needs identified.

The social and case workers are available at the GBV court all the time to help survivors of GBV.

Conclusion: Emotional abuse is a serious issue that affects countless individuals worldwide. By raising awareness, recognizing the signs, and providing support, we can work towards creating a safer and more compassionate society. Remember, healing is possible, and you are not alone. Reach out for help, prioritize your well-being, and reclaim your life from the clutches of emotional abuse.

Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing psychological or emotional abuse, please visit the GBV and Juvenile court at Mudiria in Juba for support.






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