Josephine’s daughter Mary was married at 16 while she and her mother were in Khartoum. Her father was convinced by the family of a man with learning difficulties to agree to her marriage when they offered a large and much-needed sum of money as partial payment of the bride-wealth. The family promised to provide for Mary throughout the marriage, knowing that her husband, their son, could not do so due to his poor health. According to Josephine this did not happen, and the family mistreated Mary to such an extent that she repeatedly ran away. Each time she was forced to go back by her father to her husband as her family could not return the bride-wealth.
In 2011, Josephine and Mary, along with Mary’s daughter, travelled back to South Sudan, with the promise that Mary’s husband would follow soon after with his parents and siblings. Upon returning to South Sudan they settled in an area of non-demarcated land that had been designated by the government and the UN for returnees. While life was difficult, they were happy to be back in South Sudan and Mary was especially happy to be (temporarily) free from her husband and his family, who seemed to have chosen not to return and therefore abandoned her.
Within months of arriving, Mary was approached by a single man living nearby, who proposed marriage. Despite Mary refusing his advances, he persisted, until eventually in late 2011 he kidnapped Mary, hiding her for a month during which time he repeatedly raped her. After a month the perpetrator came with Mary to Josephine’s house, where it was decided by the families that Mary would now have to marry the perpetrator because of the belief that “her value had already been taken”. The perpetrator’s family agreed to pay a fine, which was significantly less than what the bride-wealth would have been.
However, before to the forced marriage, Mary died of an asthma attack, thought by her mother to have been brought on by the trauma she had endured. The perpetrator was not charged with the kidnapping or rape and remains in the community where Josephine is currently living. She is unable to move anywhere else.