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Hearing ‘horrific’ testimonies from rape survivors in South Sudan, UN envoy says they yearn only for peace

Pramila Patten, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence and Conflict, told reporterss that she had been “alarmed to hear about the increasing climate of intimidation” in which civil society organisations work, “including attacks against those providing services to sexual violence survivors.”

The world’s youngest country, South Sudan has been wracked by violence and humanitarian crisis since late 2013, following a descent into faction fighting between forces loyal to the President and then Vice-President.

As part of a joint UN–African Union visit, led by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed from 3 to 7 July, Ms. Patten met government officials and religious leaders, among others.

She toured sites protecting displaced civilians in Malakal and around the capital Juba, and spoke with survivors of sexual violence, who continue to live in acutely vulnerable situations.

“The testimonies I heard were horrific: men being systematically killed, the elderly and sick being burned alive, the genitals of young boys being mutilated or cut off, and women and girls being gang-raped – often to death,” she continued.

“In this context, sexual violence serves as a lethal tactic of war and a ‘push factor’ for forced displacement,” she added.

Ms. Patten spoke to women in the protection camps who lamented the lack of food, health services and opportunities to make a living for themselves and their families. The main hope and desire of these women was “the desire for peace,” she stated.

Although the women walk in groups collecting firewood to reduce attack risks, they need to venture beyond camp, still frequently assaulted by soldiers lurking in the high grass.

“Yet,” she explained, “they have few alternatives, as they cannot ask male community members for help.”

In the words of one woman: “Our men would get killed, whereas we only get raped.”

“All of the women I spoke with said that they wanted to see the perpetrators punished,” said the Special Representative, “yet sexual violence is fueled and exacerbated by impunity on a massive scale.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
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