South Sudan experiencing unprecedented levels of sexual violence towards girls and women

A looted bedroom in Juba, South Sudan A looted bedroom in Juba, South Sudan ©2016 Human Rights Watch

25 April 2017
Reports from several international organisations point to an alarmingly rising number of incidents of looting, beatings, rapes and gang rapes against civilians.

These atrocities are carried out mainly by government forces, but also by rebels, on the basis of ethnicity.

In the last months there seems to have been a spike in the number of incidents of sexual violence, especially in the areas around the capital Juba and the city of Mundri. Investigations carried out by Human Rights Watch revealed that hundreds of women and girls have been assaulted down the streets, at checkpoints and at their homes, and have been raped and gang raped by soldiers, often in front of the victim’s family members. Some have been abducted, held in captivity and repeatedly sexually abused.

Like a 23-year-old woman who was abducted from her family’s house, while she was visiting during her school vacation. She did not manage to get back to school as she was held in captivity for sixteen months, during which she was repeatedly sexually abused until, eventually, became pregnant. Because of malnutrition and hardship she lost considerable weight and lost most of her hair as a result. It was only at that point that she was released.

“I’m not attractive anymore” says now the girl, while adjusting her head scarf to cover the little hair she has left. She named her baby boy Barack Obama, says she has still hope and that she has not abandoned her dream to return to school and become a nurse.

This is only one of many – too many - sad stories affecting young women and girls today in South Sudan. Human Rights Watch is pleading for those responsible of such atrocities to be held to account. It has been suggested that such a sharp increase of violence is attributable precisely to impunity. On 23 March 2017, UN Secretary-General  António Guterres called for greater pressure on the South Sudanese leaders, whom he accused of being in denial of the situation and of showing no real concern as regards the plight of its people.


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