The ban, which was proclaimed alongside a 5-10pm curfew on bars, was instated by governor Augustino Wani on 11 May on allegations that girls as young as 13 had been engaging in “immoral acts” at various establishments in the state, which contains the capital Juba.

“Discos, we ban it totally because what is happening there is really very dangerous for the future of this country,” Wani said. “We are serious and we are going to make sure discos are not working in this country.”

The directive has been met with massive backlash from activists and local musicians, with many saying the new orders constitute a double standard in a country where questionable cultural practices involving minors are widely accepted.  

“We are banning certain lifestyles all under the guise of protecting cultural customs and stopping child exploitation,” activist Adhieu Ngoth Chol wrote on Facebook. “We need to ask ourselves, why are children participating in these behaviours? Why are businesses and workers being punished this way, but not those exploiting children? Why are we still allowing child marriages? Isn’t that also exploitation? We worry about sexual exploitation, but when children get married to grown men, we say it is culture.”

South Sudanese musician Check B told music in Africa that the new orders would throttle the already struggling music industry.

“Music is a business that our government should not take as a breeding ground for deviant youth; it is where artists like myself make a living. The only way we get money is through the performance at those music venues,” he said.

“The Jubek government isn’t considerate of the young people and their social activities, which enhance togetherness among the once ethnically divided youth. There is still a significant lack of social cohesion and national unity among the youth.”

Musician and Anataban activist Manasseh Mathiang said the government should rather enforce underage laws instead of issuing a blanket ban on all businesses.

“The government should have come up with strict measures to ensure that the venues do no admit underage persons,” he said. “Issuing the ban will not solve the problem of underage drinking and local gangs. This move will only agitate the local youth who will cause chaos because of loss of employment and the space to market their music.”

Meanwhile, lawyer Ajak Mayol told Eye Radio this week that he would challenge the ban in court on the basis that it was not supported by country’s transitional Constitution.

Source: Music in Africa