A glimmer of hope for the women of South Sudan
Updated: Mar 26
On International Women's Day we reflect on South Sudan's decision to establish transitional justice mechanisms and the impact of this on the countries women.
The commitment of South Sudan's cabinet to establish transitional justice mechanisms provides a glimmer of hope for the women of South Sudan. These mechanisms undermine a long accepted culture of sexual violence in South Sudan, setting the path for survivors to be acknowledged, seek reparations and advance their rights.
For far too long sexual violence has been culturally tolerated in South Sudan. 55-65% of women experience sexual and gender based violence in this young country, 70% of which is conflict related. Survivors are invisible, voiceless and unable to advocate for their rights. The Human Rights Commission for South Sudan’s February 2020 report reiterated that:
“Conflict related sexual violence continued to be widespread and pervasive in South Sudan, characterised by a recognizable pattern of terror and subjection. [V]iolations documented …. included rape, gang rape, sexual mutilation, forced marriage, abduction and sexualised torture. Children including young girls were also victims of sexual exploitation.”
If these transitional justice mechanisms (a hybrid court, a truth commission and a reparations authority) are be to effective, they will need to engage victims in their processes. However, survivors of sexual violence often do not know they have rights. In a country where polygamy is practiced, and where early forced marriage is common, what exactly does consent mean? Add to this some of the lowest literacy rates in the world, with only 19% of women having this basic skill.
In the midst of these challenges, pursuing justice and reparation for conflict related sexual violence is important way to highlight injustices and transform attitudes. If women can play a central role in this process the outcome will be all the more transformative for society.
Rights for Peace is currently working on a project with the Global Survivors Fund, strengthening the capacities of survivors of conflict related sexual violence to articulate their rights to justice and reparation.
Cover photo credit: (c) UNAMID on Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
 Report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, UN Human Rights Council, A/HRC/43/56, 31 Jan. 2020
 Report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (Feb 2020)