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Opinion

Opinion: The price of being a girl in South Sudan

South Sudan
Lucca Poni, 23, hoped to finish school but she was married in exchange for 10 cows.
(Sara Hylton / For The Times)

To the editor: On the front page of The Times this week was one of the simplest, yet most spectacular photos that I, a designer, have seen. (“What daughters are worth,” August 1)

The portrait of Lucca Poni and her child in South Sudan accompanied a fine article by Robyn Dixon on young girls’ plight in that part of the world.

I had to look twice to be sure it was not a painting.

Photographer Sara Hylton’s attention to subject matter illustrating the article, composition, light and color are worthy of Pulitzer consideration to my mind.

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Marty Huyette, Dana Point

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To the editor: The plight of young daughters in South Sudan is indeed horrific, but their problems stem from war and poverty, not from a culture that commodifies women.

Many undergraduates learn about this in anthropology 101, when they read E. E. Evans-Pritchard’s classic monograph, “Kinship and Marriage Among the Nuer.”

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Today’s violence toward daughters in South Sudan represents a crisis of social reproduction triggered by civil war, oil politics, and climate change.

Women of this region are not bought and sold for cash. They are exchanged for lineage-owned cattle understood as socially reproductive “bridewealth.”

When a husband marries a wife she reproduces for his family, perpetuating his lineage while building ties of kinship and marriage between in-laws.

Andrew Apter, Santa Monica

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