(New York) – Human Rights Watch will present a photography exhibition, “Dowry – Child and Forced Marriage in South Sudan,” from June 13 to 26, 2013. The exhibit, by the award-winning photographer Brent Stirton, will be at Lincoln Center during the annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival.
Stirton, of Reportage by Getty Images, joined a Human Rights Watch investigation in South Sudan. Child marriage there is common, where some girls are married as young as 12. Nearly half of all the girls in South Sudan between the ages of 15 and 19 are married.
The tradition of paying a dowry is a key driver of early marriage, with families marrying off girls to the highest bidder, Human Rights Watch said in a recent report. The groom’s family typically pays dowries of cows, cash, and other gifts to the bride’s relatives. In exchange, girls pay a very high price: an end to their education, exposure to violence and abuse, and – because their bodies are still growing – life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
Stirton ’s narrative approach in photography has become an enormously powerful tool in exposing human rights abuses and helping to end them, Human Rights Watch said.
“Stirton’s images literally stop you in your tracks,” said Veronica Matushaj, director of documentary video and photography at Human Rights Watch. “He has a remarkable ability to capture the attention of viewers and keep them engaged, helping them fully understand a complex human rights story.”
In 2013, Stirton’s photographic work with writer Peter Gwin – “Rhino Wars” for National Geographic – was honored with an Overseas Press Club Award. The work helped lead to a crackdown on South African rhino killers, with some facing long jail terms. One rhino-poaching kingpin was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He also won three “Pictures of the Year” awards in 2013, including the Environmental Vision award for a global investigation into ivory trafficking for National Geographic.
Stirton’s career history as an investigative photographer, committed to in-depth work on issues related to the environment, natural resources, conflict, and health, has made him an exceptional partner for Human Rights Watch.
The collaboration has included Human Rights Watch investigative projects on a gold mine in Papua New Guinea, the search for justice for the victims of a little-known conflict in Kenya’s Mt. Elgon region, and the human rights impacts surrounding the construction of the 2014 Sochi Olympics infrastructure in Russia. Stirton’s work has also been used to illustrate Human Rights Watch’s reporting on Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. In 2012, the joint multimedia effort on the Papua New Guinea gold mine won a Peabody Award.
The exhibit will be in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery in the Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street, plaza level, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenues.