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Protect women and girls from sexual violence in South Sudan

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Thousands of women and girls, mostly in South Sudan's Unity state, have been abducted by government soldiers and allied militias for sex slavery during a brutal civil war that started in 2013.

Following civil war and genocide, South Sudan became an independent country in 2011 but has disintegrated into catastrophic war. Thousands of people have been killed and around two million displaced in a civil conflict that erupted in late 2013 between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those led by his former deputy, Riek Machar. Although the two warring sides agreed to a peace deal last month, violence continues and women and girls are still being forced into sexual slavery and raped by soldiers.

In 2014, those monitoring the conflict began to report of rape on a massive scale. Human Rights Watch reported that with tens of thousands still crowded UN bases, the camps don't always provide safe haven for women and girls. "Within the camps on these bases, overcrowding and poor lighting create conditions that can increase the risk of sexual violence." 

In June of 2015, there were reports of women and girls being raped repeatedly by soldiers, right under the nose of the UN peacekeeping mission. The deputy head of the UN's mission in South Sudan Toby Lanzer admitted that, "Yes there have been incidents which have happened right outside our gates and we have had to make horrible choices," and that the conflict presents "impossible dilemmas and huge logistical challenges." In July of 2015, the UN uncovered evidence of South Sudan's army of raping and then burning girls alive inside their homes.

Officials have documented more than 1,300 cases of rape between April and September of 2015 in Unity State alone, and 50 more cases from September to October, and these numbers are believed to only be a "snapshot" of the scale of harm being done.

Army-affiliated militias raped and abducted women and girls essentially as a form of payment, under an agreement that allowed them to “do what you can and take what you can.” Some women reported being taken as “wives” by soldiers and kept for sexual slavery in barracks where they were raped repeatedly. Witnesses said attackers often killed women who resisted them, made eye contact, or showed signs of being unable to withstand continued gang rape. In one incident, witnesses saw soldiers arguing because one of them wanted to “take” a 6-year-old girl he thought was “beautiful.” Other soldiers eventually shot the girl, the witnesses said.

This is unacceptable. Although resources are being tested, this violence and exploitation simply cannot be allowed to continue. 

We call on you to take action to end the mass rape of women and girls in South Sudan.  Although many at the UN have expressed outrage over these abuses, they are continuing.  Peacekeeping forces must be more vigilant about preventing sexual violence in the camps, and more resources must be diverted to ensure that women and girls are protected from this cruelty. Children especially should not have to endure such traumatic violence. Girls should be allowed to be girls, not used for pleasure or payment. We demand that the government of South Sudan puts an end to these crimes immediately. 

--For more information on the use of mass rape in South Sudan, see the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights' report here:

Watch a video on the situation here: --WARNING this video may be hard for some to watch.

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