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  • Ciara Laverty

Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Darfur is escalating

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Cover of Sudan Study on Conflict-Related sexual violence along side #No Excuse Banner of UN Women for 16 Days of Activism

As we embark on the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, we are reminded that violence against women and girls is the most pervasive human rights violation worldwide. Situations like Sudan and Darfur are not getting the international attention they need. The international community must act to prevent and address the escalating conflict-related sexual violence in Darfur. There is #NoExcuse for gender-based violence.

Since the outbreak of the new conflict in Sudan on 15 April 2023, thousands of civilians have been killed, injured and subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence, 5.7 million people have been displaced inside and outside Sudan and 25 million are currently relying on some form of aid.

In recent weeks, civilians have borne the brunt of a significant escalation in fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Darfur and heightened inter-communal violence in the region. Reports of a surge in ethnically-targeted attacks and killings have emerged since early-November, with the RSF reported to have targeted internally displaced people primarily of Masalit ethnic origin in a campaign of killings, executions and sexual violence in Ardamata town, West Darfur. UNHCR has reported that more than 800 people were killed during these attacks. Witnesses have described civilians being executed in their homes, on the streets and while attempting to flee. Women and girls were reportedly subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence in Ardamata IDP camp and inside some homes during what is being called "six days of terror" in the locality.

This escalation in violence comes amidst already widespread reports of conflict-related sexual violence, including rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, since April 2023. By October 2023, women’s organisations had verified at least 124 rapes associated with the conflict, with the actual numbers likely extending into the thousands. In early November, OHCHR expressed alarm over reports that at least 20 women and girls had been abducted, chained and held in “inhuman, degrading slave-like conditions” in areas controlled by the RSF in Darfur. According to the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa, the prevalence of sexual violence committed by the RSF has escalated since early October. Fighters on the ground are emboldened in committing crimes of sexual violence.

Given the government of Sudan’s decision to terminate UNITAMS’s mandate on 16 November 2023, and faced with escalating conflict-related sexual violence in Darfur, the international community must urgently devise new strategies to prevent further atrocities, including sexual violence, and protect civilians in Sudan.

In working to ensure justice and accountability for conflict-related sexual violence, the new UN Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan should ensure that it advocates for the establishment of urgent reparations programs to address the physical, psychological, and social consequences endured by survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. Our Study on Reparations for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Sudan, offers practical, concrete, and context-specific recommendations to policymakers and other relevant actors at national and global levels on how to keep opportunities for survivor-centred reparations alive, despite the ongoing violence.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence serves as a powerful reminder of our collective responsibility to stand against the pervasive issue of conflict-related sexual violence and to act to prevent and ensure accountability and reparation for survivors in Sudan.

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