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UN SRSG for Sexual Violence in Conflict condemns use of rape as a tactic of war in South Sudan

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South Sudan
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UNMISS
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FRANCESCA MOLD

Thousands of women and girls across South Sudan have suffered rape and other abuse during the brutal civil war which erupted in 2013.

The UN’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict met many survivors during a week-long visit to the conflict-affected country. She heard first-hand about the trauma and injuries they had suffered from the violence inflicted on them, and how afraid they were to report what had happened to them.

“We are dealing with a crime which is very unreported because of stigma and lack of access to justice,” said the SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten. “Where do you go to report and who do you report to when soldiers in uniform have raped you?”

The SRSG visited South Sudan as part of a high-powered United Nations and African Union “solidarity” mission. She raised the issue of the “massive” scale of sexual violence with government representatives during her visit.

“Rape and other forms of sexual violence are clearly a consistent, systematic feature of the conflict that has been used as a tactic of war to displaced populations, to disperse and instill fear within particular ethnic groups,” she said.

The SRSG credited the government with acknowledging the prevalence of rape and other abuse, but also urged them to act to prevent the scourge of sexual violence and hold perpetrators to account.

“I think that, right now, we are at the stage where it is cost free to rape, where it is cost free to rape a child of four years old, or it is cost free to rape a woman whatever her age,” said Pramila Patten. “As a result, sexual violence has been fueled and exacerbated by this deep culture of impunity and hence addressing impunity and reversing this culture of impunity is critical.”

The SRSG said there was an urgent need for legal assistance, the inclusion of a definition of rape and sexual violence in line with international standards in the South Sudanese legislation and a strengthening of the rule of law. Ending sexual violence in South Sudan is critical to building lasting peace, she said.