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[ACNS, by Kenyi Dube] Marking the international day for the elimination of sexual violence in conflict this week, the south Sudan Council of Churches issued a statement on the importance of care for the survivors of sexual violence during the conflict in south Sudan. In a statement the church leaders expressed concern that some survivors of conflict-related sexual violence are condemned and rejected by their families and as a result they are ostracised and relegated to the margins of society turning them into outcast.
However the church leaders emphasised that there is no shame in being a victim of rape; and that the shame must lie with those who perpetrate such acts. They said that the community must extend love and respect for one another, healing the physical or mentally wounded are the foundation for peaceful and prosperous society
At the time of the conflict almost 95 per cent of woman and girls were reportedly raped by more than one perpetrator and often for several hours or even days. This has caused many survivors to go silent with stigma as they fear the negative response by society if they report such acts. They fear being victimised, blamed or being pushed to the margins of the society. That’s why the church is calling on the government and public institutions to provide justice for the survivors of sexual violence in conflict.
A UN report released on 15 February this year highlights persistently high levels of sexual violence in South Sudan’s northern Unity region at the border with Sudan, with at least 170 women and girls raped, and suffered other forms of sexual and physical violence just between September and December 2018. And 47 of those were children under the age of 18.
It says pregnant women and nursing mothers were also victims of sexual violence. In one incident alone on 17 December, in the village of Lang in Koch County, five women were gang-raped, four of whom were pregnant, including one who was nearly nine months pregnant.
The UN often describes the sexual violence situation in South Sudan as widespread, especially in the areas that have been witnessing the conflict since 2013.
The statement was read by the Primate of the Episcopal church of south Sudan, Archbishop Justin Badi Arama on behalf of the church leaders on Wednesday (19 June).