Helping Women Understand their Rights in South Sudan

The Eastern Equatorial State residents have been urged to work together for the elimination of gender-based violence and promote girl-child education as most women in the new nation do not understand their rights.

By Peter Lokale Nakimangole

Valerie Masumbuko
Valerie Masumbuko speaking at Torit Freedom Square during
the celebrations to mark the 16 days of activism against
gender-based violence in Eastern Equatoria State. 

This story originally appeared in Gurong Trust.

TORIT – Ms. Valerie Masumbuko, an activist campaigning against gender-based violence at CHF International noted that women do not know their rights and they are prone to violence at homes and at workplaces.

Masumbuko was speaking at Torit Freedom Square during the celebrations to mark the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence in Eastern Equatoria State.

The 16 days of activism present an opportunity for all women, girls, boys and men to advocate and peacefully raise a collective voice against all forms of violence against women.

She noted that women have continued to face devastating forms of gender-based violence ranging from widespread sexual violence, deployed systematically for military or political objectives.

“According to the tradition, the man has paid dowry and he owns you. The women don’t know their marital rights and they’re not aware of their rights as women,” said Ms. Masumbuko.

She quoted that in South Sudan, the 2011 report on GBV and protection concerns indicates women are nine times more likely than men to leave their jobs as a result of sexual harassment and 59 percent of women report that violence takes place at home, with 19 percent reporting violence in the village.

The leader notes that girls under 15 years of age are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their twenties and they also are at a higher risk for obstetric fistula, which can result from prolonged and obstructed labor.

Ms. Masumbuko notes that 90 percent of married girls surveyed in the region would have preferred not to have sex when they did and 81 percent were forced to have sex against their will.

She said report says the police did not intervene on GBV cases because they are scared, unmotivated and untrained and because of this continuous predicament, women in South Sudan have remained the poorest of the poor and the most marginalized of the marginalized.

She notes that South Sudanese engaged in violence during the war, restrictive attitudes about the status of women, militarization, polygamy, and early marriage were all found to be factors associated with domestic violence.

In South Sudan, at least four out of ten women have experienced one or more forms of violence, with many more cases going unreported. Displacements due to conflict and natural disasters, coupled with high levels of food insecurity, exacerbate the incidence of gender-based violence across the country.

Alarmingly, studies show that 8 out of 10 South Sudanese seem to have tolerance for violence against women.

Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) calls for a greater respect for the rights of women and girls, urging countries to take measures to protect them from gender based violence, and to support their participation in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction.

The UN Security Council has, through its resolution 1960, also requested separate country level mechanisms to monitor and report on incidences of conflict related to sexual violence, both in South Sudan and in other countries.