Where are the #blm activists?
OBANLIKU, Nigeria—Monica, 16, is one of two sisters sold as wives to men who found their photographs on their father’s Facebook page and contacted him. She and her 14-year-old younger sister never wanted to get married until they completed their secondary education in Ogbakoko, a small village in Obanliku Local Government Area in Nigeria’s south-central Cross River state. But the teenage sisters fell victims to a culture which subjects little girls, some as young as 10, to de facto slavery through a tradition called “money marriage.”
The sisters belong to the Becheve community, a large tribe of 17 villages in Obanliku where there is a long tradition in which young girls—often referred to as “money women” or “money wives”—are sold in exchange for food or livestock or cash, or to settle debts.
Like hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of girls from the Becheve clan who are victims of money marriages, Monica and her sister were sold without their consent. Their father wanted to clear the debt he owed to a distant relative. The two sisters got married a month apart to men whom they did not know at all and who were old enough to be their grandfathers.
Their respective husbands got in touch with their father after seeing the Facebook page where he posted photos of his six daughters to draw the attention of his tribesmen. The men of the clan have found the new technology helps to extend and expand their old, exploitative traditions.
“My father knew nothing about Facebook until my elder brother bought him a smartphone and convinced him to join Facebook and post our photographs whenever he likes,” Monica told The Daily Beast. “He’ll buy new clothes and force me and my sisters to put them on before taking photographs of us.”
Usually in the Becheve community, parents of the money brides take the girls to men who can afford to pay for their daughters whenever they think they are fit for marriage, or wait for interested men to request their daughter’s hand in marriage. But in recent months, families who are so desperate to give their children away for money turn to Facebook so their kinsmen can check them out.
“It is young people who convince old men to look for wives on Facebook,” said Monica, who ran away from her husband to live with a friend less than a year after she got married. “The man I married said his oldest son showed him my photo on Facebook and directed him to my father.”
In effect, they use Facebook, quite literally, as a face book, although the actual exchange of money or goods does not take place online.
Spokespeople for Facebook, when contacted by The Daily Beast, were not familiar with the phenomenon as practiced in the Becheve community.
In other cultures where brides have been auctioned online, measures have been taken to stop the transactions.
Reports of Facebook being used as a tool to facilitate child marriage aren’t unique to Nigeria. Last November, the social media platform came under fire after posts discussing the sale of a 16-year-old girl in South Sudan. The victim was married in the process after her father, in exchange for his daughter, received 530 cows, three Land Cruiser V8 cars and $10,000. The teenager reportedly was bid on by five men, including senior officials in the South Sudanese government.
Facebook said it took down the post as soon it learned of of it on Nov. 9, but that wasn’t until after the victim, Nyalong Ngong Deng Jalang, had been married off as the 10th wife of Kok Alat, a wealthy businessman from the country’s capital city of Juba, on Nov. 3. The post seeking bids for the teenager reportedly was publishedon Oct. 25.