REPUBLIC OF SOUTH SUDAN: Sexual violence ‘on a massive scale’ leaves thousands in mental distress amid raging conflict

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25 Jul 2017
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Regional conflict

Thousands of South Sudanese women and girls, and some men, who have been raped in ethnically-charged sexual attacks in the ongoing conflict are battling mental distress and stigma with nowhere to turn for help, Amnesty International revealed in a new report out today.

“Do not remain silent”: Survivors of Sexual violence in South Sudan call for justice and reparations, reveals aggravated acts of sexual violence against thousands of people across the country since hostilities began in December 2013. The report is the result of a joint research project between Amnesty International and 10 South Sudanese human rights defenders who cannot be named due to fear of reprisals from the government of South Sudan.

Perpetrators come from both sides of the conflict, pitting the government forces of President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, against opposition forces of Riek Machar, a Nuer, and their respective allied armed groups.

“These indefensible acts have left the victims with debilitating and life-changing consequences, including physical injuries and psychological distress. Many survivors have also been shunned by their husbands and in-laws and stigmatized by the wider community.”

Amnesty International’s researchers interviewed 168 victims of sexual violence including 16 men across four states in South Sudan as well as in three refugee settlements in northern Uganda.

In some cases, the attackers killed the women after they had raped them.

Civilian men have also been attacked. Some have been raped, others castrated or had their testicles pierced with needles.

One of the women Amnesty International spoke to is now HIV+. Others are suffering from fistula and bowel incontinence. Some men have been rendered impotent.

Many victims said they were experiencing nightmares, loss of memory, lack of concentration, and had thought of revenge or suicide - all common symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

A 19-year-old woman, was brutally raped and is now unable to control her urine and bleeds frequently.

Another woman, 24, can no longer sleep for more than three hours a night because of nightmares that the soldiers are coming back.

“The South Sudanese government must take deliberate measures to halt this epidemic of sexual violence, starting by sending a clear message of zero tolerance, immediately ordering an independent and effective investigation into the attacks that have taken place and ensuring that those responsible are held to account in fair trials,” said Muthoni Wanyeki.

Many of the victims were targeted because of their ethnicity, which is increasingly conflated with political allegiance to either the government or the opposition.

24 July 2017

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