Men are said to have offered cows, cars and money for the chance to marry the teenager, from South Sudan, who has since turned 17.
After details of the auction were reportedly shared on Facebook, pressure began mounting on the country’s government to shut it down.
“The practice is a gross human rights violation and violates the rights of a girl,” Monica Adhiue, acting executive director for South Sudan’s National Alliance for Women Lawyers, said today.
A shocking photo, apparently from a Facebook post about the auction, shows a tall, expressionless girl standing next to a shorter, smiling man.
Under a smiley face emoji, the post reads, “Competition is perfectly allowed in Dinka/Jieng culture.” In a reference to the teenager’s height, it says: “The kids of the winner are guaranteed for NBA slots.”
It is reported that a man won the auction by offering 530 cars, three cars and the equivalent of around £7,000 to the teenager’s own dad.
Speaking to South Sudan in Focus, an Internet TV show, Ms Adhiue added: It does not only deprive the girl child from education and limit her future opportunities in her life, but also increases the risk of violence, jeopardizes her health, reduces the girl child to a property, and deprives her from the right to choose.”
Ms Adhiue alleged that government workers were among those bidding.
“They need to be suspended from their office and this case to be investigated and, of course, whoever is involved in this auctioning also later needs to be properly investigated and held accountable because this is a violation of human rights,” she said.
The government has recently passed legislation protecting girls and women but Suzy Natana, a lawyer in the nation, believes more could be done.
“If they can see in educating a girl in doing away with harmful traditional cultures of early child marriage, then we can see change,” she said.
“There has to be some form of regulation and if it is just a token, then even if it is just one cow or two cows that is given out as a form of dowry, a token of appreciation, that’s good enough but the moment we start attaching value to this token, then there comes a problem.”
The South Sudan government has been approached for comment.