December 2, 2016 (JUBA) – The world should pay special attention to the “epic proportions” of sexual violence in South Sudan, experts from the independent United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said following a 10-day visit to South Sudan where they met women survivors around the country.
- UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict Zainab Bangura (Photo: UN/Jean-Marc Ferré)
“The scale of gang rape of civilian women as well as the horrendous nature of the rapes by armed men belonging to all groups is utterly repugnant and what’s worse is that there is no sense of outrage about this horror,” said the chairperson of the Commission, Yasmin Sooka.
“There was justifiable uproar when international humanitarian workers were gang raped in July in the capital Juba but the fact of the matter is that it is happening to South Sudanese women on a daily basis and the world is just averting its eyes,” she added.
The Commission, in a statement, said it intends to call for the establishment of a special investigative team to go to South Sudan to collect evidence of the rapes so as to form the basis of prosecutions for the future.
It urged the Government of South Sudan and those in control of opposition territories to give UN investigators unfettered access to all areas of the country.
Renewed violence broke out in the young nation in July when rival forces clashed in the capital, Juba, leaving hundreds dead and thousands displaced.
While in South Sudan, however, the Commission of UN experts reportedly interviewed a rape survivor whose case was mediated by village elders who ordered the perpetrator to pay compensation of a goat and small money sum.
“For many women this sort of informal mediation system is the only justice system available,” partly reads the statement released by the experts.
“It is mind boggling that a woman’s suffering and its lifelong impact has so little value, not to mention that serious crimes like rape must be tried in a court of law with due process,” said Commissioner Ken Scott.
Various rape cases were also documented by the UN experts in various parts of the country, including in the capital, Juba, Bentiu in Unity State and Malakal in Upper Nile.
For instance, in Malaka, the Upper Nile state capital, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) indicated that one in five women in the protection of civilian camp reported being sexually violated since the outbreak of the conflict.
Sadly, however conflict-related sexual violence mostly goes unreported.
The Commission said it also heard reports of women being abducted and subjected to sexual slavery by armed groups who move them from house to house resulting in the girls not being found. Some were raped inside displacement camps, and there are increasingly high domestic violence levels.
“What concerns us is the pattern of sexual violence targeting women all over the country, the fact that rape is one of the tools being used for ethnic cleansing and the absolute impunity for these crimes,” said Sooka.
She further added, “All commanders at every level have an affirmative responsibility to prevent and punish rape and other sexual violence. The Commission believes the only way to curb the “normalization” of rape is to conduct investigations leading to prosecution for those in command”.