South Sudan

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2015/203) issued on 23 March 2015.

 

Sexual violence remains prevalent in South Sudan, exacerbated by impunity and a militarized society in which gender inequality is pronounced. Factors such as forced disarmament, the circulation of illegal arms, mass displacement, cattle raiding, intercommunal violence and food insecurity have increased the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual violence. Such violence is, however, trivialized by law enforcement officials and the community, with survivors often forced to marry perpetrators as a “remedy”. Moreover, medical, legal and psychosocial services are available only in limited areas and some facilities are deliberately targeted during military attacks, particularly in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile States. The scale and severity of sexual violence increased with the outbreak of the current conflict between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition on 15 December 2013. Repeated offensives and counteroffensives have led to cycles of revenge attacks and rapes, often ethnically motivated. Armed elements have also raped women from neighbouring countries because of their nationalities and alleged alliances with parties to the conflict. During the reporting period, 167 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence affecting 236 persons were documented, including 75 incidents affecting 116 minors. Women and girls were targeted in 95 per cent of these cases.
 

Incidents of sexual violence have been reported in all 10 states to be a part of military tactics employed by both parties, mainly in Unity, Upper Nile, Lakes, Jonglei, Central, Eastern and Western Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal States. According to a report released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on 8 May 2014, there was credible evidence to suggest that acts of sexual violence committed in the context of the conflict could amount to crimes against humanity. Documented forms of sexual violence include rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, abduction, castration, forced nudity and forced abortion. At least 31 victims died as a result of rape; some survivors were impregnated, mutilated or infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. More than 200 allegations of abductions of women and girls taken as “wives” and/or for the purposes of sexual slavery by both parties to the conflict are under investigation. Other trends, including the rape and gang rape of women in and around protection of civilians sites in Unity and Jonglei States by soldiers, have an ethnic dimension that mirrors the divisions of the conflict. Unidentified uniformed men have also repeatedly harassed and raped women and girls leaving the sites to travel to markets, water points and firewood collection areas. UNMISS has taken measures to mitigate these threats, including patrolling high-risk zones and facilitating the supply of firewood and fuel. United Nations agencies, including UNFPA, UNICEF and UNHCR, have made efforts to ensure that women have a voice in the management of protection of civilians sites, as well as distributing dignity kits and installing solar lighting in isolated areas.

 

Outside the dynamics of the current conflict, sexual violence continues to be reported during intercommunal clashes, particularly in Lakes State where incidents of rape, including gang rape, have been perpetrated by SPLA soldiers, Dinka youth and armed cattle keepers, including elements of the White Army. Members of the South Sudan National Police Service, the Justice and Equality Movement and Nuer deserters from SPLA and the Lord’s Resistance Army are among the perpetrators. Both major parties to the conflict that erupted in December 2013 have committed to refrain from “any acts of rape, sexual abuse and torture” in the cessation of hostilities agreement signed on 23 January 2014. The Government signed a joint communiqué to address conflict-related sexual violence with my Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict on 11 October 2014 during her visit to South Sudan. This agreement includes such measures as the issuance and enforcement of clear orders through military and police chains of command prohibiting sexual violence, accountability mechanisms, exclusion of perpetrators from the security forces and from amnesty provisions and enhanced multisectoral services for survivors. In December 2014, opposition leader Riek Machar issued a communiqué in which he committed to undertake similar measures.

 

Recommendation

I urge the parties to the conflict in South Sudan to adopt action plans to implement the commitments made under their respective communiqués. I call upon the Government of South Sudan to address the negative impact of customary law on women’s rights and to reflect international human rights standards in national law. I also encourage the African Union to make public and act upon the report of its Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan.