PRESS STATEMENT: To the 62nd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights on Sexual Violence

Honorable Chairperson, Commissioners, the Secretary of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and distinguished participants,

The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA), a regional network of civil society organizations comprising of over seventy five members, working on women and girls’ rights would hereby like to highlight the plight of women victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in the three countries of Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan where SIHA is currently running a sexual violence project.

SIHA condemns all forms of violence against women and girls particularly sexual and gender-based violence which seriously affects all aspects of women’s health-physical, sexual and reproductive, mental and behavioral health. Health consequences of gender-based violence can be immediate and acute as well as long lasting and chronic and can persist long after the violence has stopped. Survivors of sexual violence need support from their communities – access to medical and psychosocial care as well as justice if they are to rebuild their lives. Unfortunately, there are a myriad of obstacles to accessing those services, and justice. The picture has been grim for a very long time.

SIHA’s work in the region is to break the silence on sexual violence with the support of grassroots organizations in order to build regional solidarity for advocacy and protection against the form of violence

With this in mind, and in line with the Protocol to The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, SIHA urgently calls upon:

The African Commission should urge the Sudan government to prioritize legal reform with both the definition of rape and consent, under the 1991 Sudanese Criminal Act being expanded to conform to the international legal framework. It is also imperative that mechanisms are put in place to concretize stakeholders including citizens, the military and armed forces, medical workers and lawyers, to be receptive to prevent, protect and respond to, and stop stigma towards the survivors of sexual violence;

The African Commission to prioritize the fight against impunity in South Sudan, as a primary focal point making it an act of justice for victims as well as appropriate punishment for perpetrators of sexual violence. The Commission has a duty to mobilize all tools and appropriate protocols to leverage pressure onto South Sudan to combat impunity and implement effective judicial mechanisms;

The African Commission should implore the Somali government to legislate and pass the Sexual Offences Bill whilst addressing the militarization of civilians, spreading militant militias, and stand firm against sexual and gender-based violence,  working to provide employment and training opportunities for youth males and females to end the situation of disparity and random violence.

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