S.Sudanese women, girls suffer “shadow crisis” imposed by conflicts, norms – UN OCHA

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) says women and girls in South Sudan continue to suffer from a “shadow crisis” imposed by recurrent conflicts and harmful social norms.

It said although the South Sudanese humanitarian crisis is characterized by conflicts and climatic changes, women and girls suffer additional consequences.

“We call them shadow crisis. It is a crisis of women and girls who are disproportionally affected,” said Sara Beysolow, Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan.

She was addressing the media in Juba on August 18, 2022 – ahead of the World Humanitarian Day.

“They suffer what everybody else is suffering then in addition to that, they suffer sexual harassment, exploitation, gender based violence, conflict related sexual violence and everything is dump on them.”

In March 2022, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan published a 48-page report that describes a hellish existence for women and girls. It said widespread rape is being perpetrated by all armed groups across the country, often as part of military tactics for which government and military leaders are responsible, either due to their failure to prevent these acts, or for their failure to punish those involved.

The report is based on interviews conducted with victims and witnesses over several years. Survivors detailed staggeringly brutal and prolonged gang rapes perpetrated against them by multiple men, often while their husbands, parents or children have been forced to watch, helpless to intervene.

On the eve of the World Humanitarian Day, the UN OCHA said these abuses coupled with harmful traditions and cultural practices hold women back from achieving their goals.

“They are expected to cook, to nurture, to clean, to be partners to men, to farm, to harvest, to give birth and go to the 9 months of painful pregnancy and delivery. Everything is expected of women and girls then you rape them, you abuse them and treat them like horses and donkeys. This is not acceptable,” Beysolow emphasized.

UN reports note that South Sudanese women are physically assaulted while being raped at gunpoint, typically held down by men while being abused by others. Medical personnel say many survivors have been raped multiple times throughout their lifetime. Some women often bear children as a result of the rapes, and women have been abandoned by husbands and families, and left destitute. Some of those raped while pregnant suffered miscarriages.

In May, the revitalized peace deal’s ceasefire monitoring body, CTSAMVM published a report on sexual violence against 320 women and girls raped in Upper Nile and Unity States between February and April this year.

Sara Beysolow said sexual abuses continue to happen as a result of deficit in the rule of law and justice.

“Impunity is perpetuating factor and a driver of conflict and insecurity. There is an urgent need to bring perpetrators to justice. We need strengthened joint action, multidimensional dialogue, and engagement to address this,” she underscored.