Humanitarian

South Sudan’s Hidden Crime: Fighting 'Brutal Sexual Violence' In Conflict

Both parties involved in the conflict have regularly targeted civilians.

Warning: this article may contain distressing accounts of sexual violence.

Conflict-related sexual violence is endemic in South Sudan, with tens of thousands of victims estimated to be living in the country.

In November 2018, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) provided emergency and psycho-social assistance to 125 women and girls who were sexually abused in northern South Sudan in a span of just 10 days.

Girls as young as 10, pregnant women and women older than 65 were assaulted.

The following month, Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) submitted the first-ever case against the Government of South Sudan for the rape, mass rape and sexual slavery of South Sudanese women and girls by members of the South Sudan Army and the Presidential Guard.

The organisation is now representing 30 clients who suffered from sexual violence in South Sudan who were aged between 12 and 42 at the time of the attacks.

"They have alleged that the South Sudan military raped, gang-raped them and subjected them to sexual slavery, as well as forced mutilation," explained Antonia Mulvey, Founder and Executive Director of LAW. 

Since taking on the cases, LAW has filed a complaint at the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

"We have requested that there is compensation for the victims, a cease in these actions, and a provision of medical, psycho-social and legal support for the victims," said Mrs Mulvey.

Watch: Forces News reporter Claire Sadler spoke to Antonia Mulvey, who explained how LAW focuses on addressing sexual violence through legal intervention.

Women who have been attacked often find themselves shunned by their family and community.

The perpetrators are rarely held to account, which means speaking out for victims is often not just futile, but dangerous.

"It is quite shocking that of all of these cases [of sexual violence in South Sudan], the only case that has had prosecution involved international aid workers," added Mrs Mulvey.

LAW, explained Mrs Mulvey, is trying to help those who had the courage to come forward and speak up about their experiences of conflict-related sexual violence in the country.

The lack of access to legal services and fear to come forward, she explained, have stopped many. LAW and many other organisations aim to provide support to victims who wish to undertake the long, often painful journey, of sharing their experiences.

Watch: is it the right time for British troops to leave South Sudan?