Report: CARE warns of a growing scourge of sexual violence against women and girls in South Sudan conflict

OSLO, Norway, 19 May 2014 - Even before the current conflict South Sudan was one of the world's harshest environments in which to come of age as a woman. Conditions have only deteriorated since the fighting broke out on December 15 of last year. CARE International released a report today titled "The Girl Has No Rights": Gender-based Violence in South Sudan, which combines the terrible conditions that have developed in five months of fighting with data from a baseline survey conducted in the last quarter of 2013, just before the conflict started.

"The impact of the conflict on women and girls has been horrifying," said Aimee Ansari, CARE South Sudan Country Director. "The things happening here to women and girls are evil. Women tied up, raped and then shot. Women attacked in hospitals and churches where they had fled seeking safety with their families. There is no safe place for a woman today in South Sudan."

The report looks into widespread social norms and practices that result in the vast majority of girls being denied education, allow a young women's worth to be routinely measured in cows and pressure survivors of rape to suffer in silence, which often means foregoing medical and psychological support as well as legal remedy. Apart from leaving them vulnerable to all forms of abuse, these prevailing cultural norms marginalize women from participation in any level of political activity or decision-making especially in the countryside.

With the onset of the conflict, the situation has deteriorated dangerously:

  • More women and even girls are engaging in transactional sex to gain access to food or water for their families

  • Parents are encouraging their daughters to marry early in order to gain access to bride price, reduce the number of mouths to feed and as a means of protection for their girls in a conflict situation and

  • Rape and sexual assault has become a weapon of war.

CARE, which is providing food, water and health care to some of those left homeless by the conflict in South Sudan and who have fled across the border to neighbouring Uganda, is calling for donors to help find a lasting political solution to the crisis and an end to the violence, and for immediate funding commitments from the international community to meet the immense humanitarian needs in South Sudan. US$1.27 billion is needed now to prevent the worst, but barely more than a third of that has been raised. If action is not taken now, the United Nations warns of a famine in parts of the country. Many states are already facing severe food shortages, with CARE staff reporting people near starvation.

While an end to the violence and funding to prevent a widespread food crisis is a priority, "The Girl Has No Rights"report urges donors to immediately address the issue of sexual violence. It calls for donors to fully fund the South Sudan Gender-based Violence sub-cluster's response plan and increase investment in and support for more effective service delivery to prevent sexual violence and support survivors, including training health professionals, social workers, and educators and community to identify and respond to sexual violence survivors with medical assistance, psychological support, and or referral services, all of which are currently in short supply in South Sudan.

"By the end of the year, if the conflict continues, it's been predicted that nearly half of the population will be displaced by the conflict or suffering from hunger, and thousands more will die from violence or hunger," said Kjell Stokvik, National Director of CARE Norway, who will be attending the Oslo conference. "And some of the most vulnerable women and girls will be suffering the horrors of this conflict in silence unless the world acts. Rape and sexual violence leave scars on a community that endure long beyond the end of a conflict. This has to stop now."

Humanitarian Pledging Conference for South Sudan:

The world's donors and governments gather in Olso, Norway tomorrow (20 May) to discuss how best to respond to the conflict and looming food crisis in South Sudan. CARE International warns of a wave of sexual violence that is worsening as the emergency in the country deepens.

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About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty. CARE has more than six decades of experience helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed. CARE places special focus on women and children, who are often disproportionately affected by disasters. To learn more, visit www.care-international.org. CARE has been operating in Southern Sudan since 1993, initially providing humanitarian relief to internally displaced people in Western Equatoria. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 allowed CARE to expand into Jonglei and Upper Nile States to support returnees from the refugee camps, and the organisation has since broadened its operations to include development programmes.

CARE Spokespeople:
John Plastow, CARE UK Programme Director 
Caroline Saint-Mleux, Regional Emergency Coordinator (Juba); Languages: French and English.
Kjell Stokvik, CARE Norway National Director (attending the Oslo conference); Languages: Norwegian and English.

Media contact:
Laura Gilmour: News editor/ Press Officer (Programme and Policy) +44 207 091 6063, gilmour@careinternational.org