You can’t be a good girl, and you know or speak about sex. In some South Sudanese communities, you need a pair of white bedsheets to prove your sexual naivety on your wedding night. ‘The Milaya policy,’ if I can call it that. If you are not fortunate enough to have a honeymoon- Mombasa flight to catch before people return from the celebrations, escaping ‘the Milaya advocates’ (aunties) is more complex than convincing a South Sudanese man to be faithful or monogamous.
This week, I spoke to a few sexually liberated South Sudanese women whose identities I will not disclose. As I write this, I already see a comment from some guy on Facebook; I can tell he is bitter, but that’s his problem.
Before we get into the gist, let’s set the record straight, sex is good for your mental health. It is the most effective natural method, especially with mood disorders. Napoleon Hill dedicated a whole chapter in his book “Think and Grow Rich”. “Sex desire is the most powerful of human desires. When driven by this desire, people develop keenness of imagination, courage, willpower, persistence, and creative ability unknown to them at other times.” He articulated.
Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights
Mentioning South Sudanese women and sexual rights in the same sentence sounds like a fantasy. What does this term even mean for us? Suppose a troubled state can put aside insecurity, high maternal morbidity & mortality rates, and high HIV infection rates, among other pressing issues, to focus on controlling what girls wear. What can we expect about fundamental sexual rights? Controlling what women and girls wear, think, say, do, and whom they love, doesn’t that sound strange to you?
Cross Border Sex Rights
I am using this term to describe having sexual relationships with people of non-South Sudanese origin and how it is seen differently for each gender. South Sudanese men who marry foreign women are not treated the same way South Sudanese women who do the same are treated. Some women have been murdered for simply daring to love outside the set boundaries. Sexual and reproductive rights remain a dream for many South Sudanese women and girls. Two main ways most women and girls continue to be denied these rights include.
This is the most obvious of them all; at least each of us knows or has heard of a story of a girl who was forced into marriage or to make a different choice because her family disapproves. Some have been disowned, others murdered. While this still happens, there are girls for whom this strategy doesn’t work, so a slightly different method is applied.
The Subtle Control
This is systemic; as times change, some of the old methods are not very effective. Some of the control has become so subtle you might fail to recognize it for what it is unless you pay close attention, or you are a victim. In these newfound subtle ways, you are made to think you are free, but you are not. I remember having an interesting conversation with one cousin, and the young king told me he would never talk to me if I married ‘Mony Ugandese,’ meaning a Ugandan man. Like how bold? Someone who doesn’t know where their next meal will come from to put their energy onto another’s choice of partner screams “misplaced priorities” to me, but that’s a discussion for another day.
It’s For Your Protection
“If someone from far away marries you and they mistreat you, it will be difficult to help you” they also justify why they forbid marrying outside your community. One can only wonder how South Sudan made it to the list of “worst countries to be a woman.” A woman will survive a bullet from her husband, and folks on Facebook will say those are family affairs. We don’t know what caused him to be so angry. Some of you here love your dads, but you know moments when they have been a significant threat to your mother, aunties, or siblings. This is not to turn you against your fathers; this is to acknowledge that the narrative of “protection” doesn’t make any sense. Many more women and girls are dying from domestic violence than we would like to admit. So, it’s about time we rest this narrative.
Those Who Control Women’s Bodies
Look within yourself and deeply meditate upon it. Why the hell are you hurt when women are in control of their bodies or what they wear? Are you not the very same people that complain about being controlled when your wife expresses discomfort with you marrying another wife? With the rates of polygamy and men’s bodies not being controlled as women’s, you’d think men would have sexual prowess. Yet small-small advice to cuddle and consider foreplay is already slapping foreign doctors. Their wives are being spoilt. How is touching your wife bad manners? Do you want to have sex like you are pounding yams?
It was refreshing to speak to South Sudanese women who consider themselves sexually liberated. Here are some of my highlights from the conversations.
“For the first time, I was shocked. This guy knew what he was doing. I didn’t rush anything; I was very eager when it was time for business. He made me realize I had never had orgasms before him,” Girl 1.
“First of all, whether I was a virgin or not was the last thing on his mind and going down was not even a question to be discussed. I haven’t, of course, told anyone I am seeing a Non-South Sudanese yet, but my skin is glowing, and I am less depressed now.” Girl 2.
“So, it has not all been heaven, there have been ups and downs, but I am having a good time. Especially because I don’t want anything serious, I want to ensure I have enough orgasms a week. And no one is making noise about how spoilt I am or how they will spoil my name if I leave them.” Girl 3 shared.
Not that I am saying all non-South Sudanese men are so perfect or that it will always work out or be so great, but I guess we will never know if we don’t try.
The point is that every South Sudanese woman should have control over their body and sex life, and be free to decide what they want to do, what they want to wear, and above all, be able to determine when, how, and whether they wish to reproduce or not.