Sexual violence against women in the war-torn Sudan

The war in Sudan is garnering constant headlines because of the massive conflict between the government of Sudan and the rebel groups which led to mass killings and inhumane atrocities towards civilians. The government in Sudan was overthrown in December 2018 and the president Omar-al Bashir was dismissed from his service by the militia.

This war started in 2003 when rebel groups Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Sudan’s Darfur region, started fighting against the government because of government’s oppression on the non-Arab population. Since then, Sudan hasn’t seen a peaceful day’s glimpse and there is subsequent warfare and conflict.

One huge matter of concern is the large scale sexual molestation of black African and non-Arab women and girls. Women are being raped by the militia groups and even legal officials in front of their kids. Girls as young as 2-years are being raped and mutilated. Some women are not even able to walk properly due to innumerable and unbearable sexual encounters. Some survivors in camps revealed about the systematic enslavement of women and girls in rape camps run by government-aligned militia groups.

Violence against women has been a common practice in many south Sudanese communities. Paying bride price, child marriage and intimate partner violence are much prevalent in Sudan. There are certain organizations and public figures that have tried to curb this situation. In 2014, South Sudan and the United Nations issued a joint communiqué on the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence. UN initiated sites to provide safe shelter to women. However, this move hardly managed to change the state of sexual barbarity in the region because of loopholes in the functioning of these sites.

Civil society organizations such as the South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network, Eve Organization and the Smile Again Africa Development Organization have provided survivors of sexual violence with dignity kits, psycho-social counselling and referral services. However, these organizations themselves register that they lack funding and technical expertise.

UN and other organizations are trying to develop radical measures for this situation.

However, it wrecks havoc in the mind that we are living in a world where sexual offences towards women are so difficult to fight. It is absolutely doleful to hear about the existence of a gigantic sexual abuse circuit like this in another part of our world. We cannot just let this go and sway away from our memories. We need to prompt serious questions like why are women so easy to target?In any conflict, why women automatically become vulnerable points without having anything to do with the real reasons of the unrest?
The problem in Sudan lies deep in the mindset towards women, and needs to be reformed from its roots.

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