GOVT, UN, Donors Elevate Awareness and Response to Gender - Based Violence in South Sudan
July 26, 2022
Violence against women and girls is a widespread and devastating human rights violation that hinders the fulfillment of women’s and girls’ human rights and development.
In South Sudan, about 65 percent of women will experience some form of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) such as child marriage and rape in their lifetime. Some of these are fueled by the legacy of conflict which the country is still grappling with. The country continues to face problems of access to justice for the victims with high numbers of backlogged cases as a result of limitations in judicial, legal aid and prosecutorial institutions, leading to lengthy periods of pre-trial detention, delayed justice, and a culture of impunity.
Working with the Government as a key development partner, UNDP is supporting the strengthening of the institutional capacities of the Judiciary of South Sudan to address issues relating to GBV and juvenile offenders.
UNDP operationalized the first GBV and juvenile court and donated two vehicles to curb the high rates of absenteeism of judicial staff and to ease transportation of inmates from police and prison facilities. UNDP also supports the deployment of mobile courts to locations with limited judicial presence to fast-track reporting and adjudication of cases. UNDP is also in the final stages of constructing a waiting room with a special focus on the needs of GBV survivors set to appear before the court.
“Now people have been staying under the trees, braving the heat and scorching sun as they wait for their trial. Now they will have a comfortable place to stay waiting for their trial,” said Justice Kulang Jeroboam, of the Court of Appeal during the commissioning of the construction in April 2022.
These interventions are executed in partnership with the Government of South Sudan with the financial support from the Government of Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Vice President elevates awareness and response to GBV in South Sudan
In recognition of ongoing efforts to address these challenges, take note of progress, and elevate awareness on both issues and solutions, a high-level delegation of representatives from the Government of South Sudan, the United Nations, and development partners made an advocacy visit to the specialized GBV and Juvenile Court in South Sudan.
Led by the Vice President and Chair of the Gender and Youth Cluster Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, the delegation also included the Speaker of the Revitalized Transitional National Legislative Assembly, Jemma Nunu Kumba, the Chief Justice Chan Reec Madut, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, Sara Beysolow Nyanti, the UNDP Resident Representative, Dr. Samuel Doe, the Ambassador of the Netherlands Jelte van Wieren and the Netherlands Human Rights Ambassador Bahia Tahzib-Lie among other dignitaries.
Referred to familiarly as the mother of the nation, the presence of the country’s first female Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior was key in elevating awareness and response to GBV in South Sudan, especially through the GBV and Juvenile Court, established in December 2020 to ease access to justice for survivors of GBV and juvenile cases.
Healing the wounds of war
During the visit to the court, the Vice President recognized the high prevalence of trauma and underscored the need for psychosocial support in a country still grappling with the effects of war. She pledged government’s commitment to ensure that perpetrators of SGBV are brought to justice and called for increased collaboration between health care providers, law enforcement agencies, as well as community and traditional leaders in addressing GBV.
Stakeholders emphasized the need for delivery of justice and an end to a culture of impunity. Strong condemnation was also echoed against the practice of marrying off young girls to people who have sexual abused or raped them.
The need for a society-wide approach was also emphasized by Ambassador Jelte van Wieren saying, “all individuals – including community leaders, political leaders, parents and teachers, both women and men – must take their responsibility in fighting for a culture in which SGBV is not accepted by holding each other accountable.”
While men are sometimes seen solely as perpetrators of SGBV/GBV, their role in combating it is critical. Thus, stakeholders called for an increased role of men in addressing SGBV. Victims of SGBV were urged to report cases of violence against them and seek justice.
Reporting of cases
Since the opening of the GBV and Juvenile court to April 2022, 668 cases have been reported with 180 concluded. The court still faces stigma-related barriers that hinder the reporting of SGBV cases.
The Speaker Jemma Nunu Kumba said that Parliament will ensure that offices involved in combating SGBV do their part and that relevant legislations to curb the vice are enacted.
On his part, Dr. Samuel Doe, the Resident Representative of UNDP thanked the donors for the support and called for the speedy enactment of legislation such as the Anti-GBV and Family Law which are central to enhancing the functioning of the court. “An optimally functioning GBV and Juvenile Court in Juba continues to be a priority”, he said.
Sara Beysolow Nyanti, the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, UN Resident Coordinator, and Humanitarian Coordinator noted that “SGBV is a global scourge that has reinforced the impact of multiple and intersecting crises of conflict, climate change, and humanitarian disasters.”
She added that addressing the scourge requires “immense political will and concrete actions to ensure that safety and security for women and girls remain an issue of dignity, protection, and rights.”