The launch of the National Action Plan for South Sudan on May 10th, 2016 speaks to the suffering of majority of women in South Sudan who have undergone unprecedented levels of violence since the upsurge of the latest civil conflict in December 2013. As such, it is “a mile stone for the Republic of South Sudan” said Dolly Anek Odwong, member of the Plan’s steering Committee and a SIHA board member.
In a context of prolonged war and militarization, the normalization of violence in South Sudan has translated into rising levels of sexual violence against women and girls, to a point where “rape has become just a normal thing”. The prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence, of forced and arranged marriages, as well as frequent cases of abduction and arbitrary imprisonment of women as cultural proxies all corroborate one idea; that the new South Sudan state is risking the sidelining and deprivation of part of its population the rights and opportunities to be active contributors towards the peace and development of their nation.
The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) commends the government of South Sudan on this very important step towards the protection of women and girls against all forms of violence and further urges all stakeholders to implement the plan and enhance women’s rights to Protection, Prevention, Participation, Relief and Recovery under the four pillars of this National Action Plan.
This calls for extensive and effective measures as well as sufficient resources to hold perpetrators accountable, improve services to survivors as well as promote channels through which victims’ access to legal and psycho-social support services is guaranteed and expedited. It is imperative for the authorities of the transitional government of National Unity to ensure accountability for sexual and domestic violence crimes during this post conflict era as a way to acknowledge and promote gender equality and the contribution of South Sudanese women of all backgrounds in achieving peace for their country.
Given the large number of victims from the recent conflict, SIHA encourages the immediate implementation of redress for survivors of sexual and gender based violence. It calls on the transitional government of National Unity to identify and hold perpetrators accountable, and work together with survivors to ensure adequate and appropriate support services are provided for survivors.