AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - Ten years of civil war: Sexual violence as a weapon of war

Monday, 18 December 2023 violence   women   war crimes

Juba (Agenzia Fides) - Victims of sexual violence are the invisible victims of the civil war that broke out in South Sudan 10 years ago in December 2013 (see Fides, 16 and 18 December 2013). Sexual violence is a real weapon of war that is "deliberately used and intended to punish and humiliate people and their communities," said Thomas Tongun Leone, a medical doctor and coordinator of the Catholic Health Commission of South Sudan, at a meeting organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva.
According to the South Sudanese doctor, forms of sexual violence include "rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced sterilization, forced marriage, and many other forms."
Violence causes "immediate physical injuries" and long-term physical injuries and face the prospect of "being at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases."
South Sudan needs a trauma healing center to help survivors of sexual violence: "We will come out of war, but we will have many traumatized people." On March 21, 2022, the United Nations Human Rights Commission in South Sudan released a report entitled "Conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls in South Sudan" describing the horrors of wartime rape in the country. “Widespread rape is being perpetrated by all armed groups across the country,” the report denounces, “often as part of military tactics for which government and military leaders are responsible”.
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. Women of all ages recounted being raped multiple times while other women were also being raped around them.
The conflict in South Sudan is characterized by a number of highly fragmented armed groups in a game of political alliances centered on ethnic and regional issues. The war involves the deliberate expulsion of the local population from their territory, often with the intention of changing the ethnic composition and political control, terrorizing local populations through massacres, looting and burning of villages, the seizing of control of local resources and rape and sexual violence. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 18/12/2023)