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2011 | S. Sudan Ministry of Gender on Gender Based Violence and protection concerns in South Sudan

This report resulted from collaboration between the South Sudan Ministry of Gender, Norwegian Peoples Aid, UNHCR, UNFPA and the UN’s Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. Of particular interest are Sections IV (p. 31-38), which examines violence against women, and V (p. 39-45), which assesses the responses available to address this violence. You can read the full report here.

As well as communal violence, in particular inter-ethnic conflict and cattle raiding, which targets women and children specifically, domestic violence was reported as the greatest threat to women’s security in South Sudan. Many women stated that domestic violence, often in the form of forced sexual intercourse with the husband, has been normalized and is on the rise, however the Southern Sudan Penal Code Act states that sexual intercourse by a married couple cannot be qualified as rape. Statutes relevant for the rights of women in South Sudan include the 2005 Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan and its Bill of Rights, the 2008 Child Act, and the 2008 Penal Code (all of which are available on our legal instruments page in this section). These statutes directly address a number of categories of violence, including early marriage, incest, rape, child prostitution abduction/kidnapping, and FGM but contain no provisions on domestic violence, including marital rape.

Women faced difficulties in accessing protection and assistance through the police, the courts, and medical and psychological services. Only eight percent of the domestic violence was reported to the police. While Interviewees reported that the police frequently do not intervene because they are ‘scared, unmotivated and untrained’, some police officers said that they were unaware of any cases of gender-based violence. Given the factual prevalence of GBV this seems to confirm that these forms of violence are widely seen as normal and acceptable.

With limited knowledge of their rights, often unaware that their cases can be tried in government courts instead of customary courts and facing deeply entrenched attitudes against reporting GBV in their families and in the courts, it is extremely difficult for women to navigate the complicated and multilayered system of justice that exists in South Sudan. Many are also simply precluded by the lack of means. Customary courts still have the broad trust of the population but the fact remains that virtually all decisions in this arena are made by men. Women’s’ focus groups interviewed confirmed that the absence of female voices among the customary judges is detrimental to ensuring justice for women. It also emerged that some police officers who acted as adjudicators of justice during the war, went on to exercise a mediating role in the customary justice system that was formerly played by tribal leaders. The authors suggest that solutions adopted by the police in this role may seem to the victims to have a greater legitimacy than those traditionally provided by the customary system, yet they generally reflect the same traditional bias against women’s personal autonomy and physical integrity.

 Finally, the report indicates that medical facilities that could help women do exist but that women rarely report their injuries because of cultural attitudes, fear, and shame. Many hospitals require presentation of a ‘Police Investigation Form 8’ before administering treatment in the mistaken belief that this is required by law.

The report ends with multiple recommendations such as amending the 2008 Penal Code Act and raising awareness of gender-based violence for law enforcement agents