Gender-based violence (GBV) refers to any harmful act directed at an individual or group based on their gender, often resulting in physical, sexual, psychological, or economic harm. GBV is rooted in unequal power dynamics between genders and is a manifestation of discrimination and gender inequality. It can occur in various forms and settings, affecting women, girls, men, and boys. GBV can take place within homes, communities, workplaces, and public spaces, and it may be perpetrated by intimate partners, family members, acquaintances, or strangers. Gender-based violence (GBV) has been a significant concern in South Sudan for many years, exacerbated by ongoing conflicts, displacement, and societal norms.
Types of Gender-based violence in South Sudan
Gender-based violence (GBV) encompasses a range of harmful behaviors and actions that are directed at individuals based on their gender. In South Sudan, as in many other places, various types of GBV affect women and girls disproportionately. Here are some of the main types of gender violence that have been reported in South Sudan:
This comes in the form of physical abuse, including beating, slapping, punching, and other forms of physical harm, often within the context of domestic relationships. Forced labor, including heavy household chores or agricultural work, imposed on women and girls without their consent.
Child Marriage and Forced Marriage
Marrying off girls at a young age without their consent, often leading to early pregnancy, health complications, and limited educational opportunities. Also arranging marriages against women’s will, often for economic or social reasons.
Its an act where rape and sexual assault are used as a weapon of war during conflicts or as a means of exerting power and control. Forced prostitution and human trafficking, including abduction and recruitment of girls for sexual exploitation.
Emotional and Psychological Violence
This includes verbal abuse, humiliation, and emotional manipulation that undermines a person’s self-esteem and mental well-being. Isolation, restricting a woman’s social interactions and contact with family and friends.
Comes in the form of denying women access to resources and economic opportunities, leading to financial dependence and vulnerability. Withholding or controlling financial resources, limiting a woman’s ability to make decisions about her own life. Arranging marriages against a woman’s will, often for economic or social reasons.
It is the practice of cutting or removing parts of the female genitalia, often carried out for cultural or traditional reasons, with serious health consequences.
Harmful Traditional Practices
This is when women are being treated as commodities in marriage negotiations most especially during bride price disputes. Also widow inheritance, where widows are forced to marry a male relative of their deceased husband.
Cyber Harassment and Online Violence
This is the use of technology to stalk, harass, threaten, or intimidate women and girls, often through social media platforms.
Violence Against Women Human Rights Defenders
Women activists and human rights defenders who speak out against GBV and advocate for gender equality can themselves become targets of violence and harassment.
It’s important to note that these types of GBV are interconnected and often occur simultaneously, compounding the harm experienced by women and girls.
Causes of Gender-based violence in South Sudan
Gender-based violence (GBV) in South Sudan is a complex issue with multiple interrelated causes. These causes often stem from a combination of historical, cultural, social, economic, and political factors. The overview of some of the key causes of GBV in South Sudan includes:
Conflict and Instability
Prolonged periods of civil conflict and instability have contributed significantly to GBV. Displacement, breakdown of social structures, and the prevalence of armed groups can create an environment where violence, including sexual violence, is used as a weapon of war.
Cultural Norms and Gender Inequality
Traditional cultural norms in South Sudan often prioritize patriarchal values and reinforce gender inequality. These norms can perpetuate harmful practices such as child marriage, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation/cutting, all of which increase the risk of GBV.
Lack of Access to Education
Limited access to education, especially for girls and women, can perpetuate cycles of poverty and ignorance, contributing to a lack of awareness about rights and options for survivors of gender violence.
Lack of Access to Education
Limited access to education, especially for girls and women, can perpetuate cycles of poverty and ignorance, contributing to a lack of awareness about rights and options for survivors of GBV.
Socioeconomic challenges, including poverty and limited economic opportunities, can exacerbate violence against women and girls. Economic stressors may contribute to domestic violence and early marriages as families seek financial stability.
Weak Legal Framework
Although there are laws in place to address gender violence in South Sudan, weak enforcement and limited access to justice hinder survivors from seeking legal recourse and protection.
Lack of Awareness and Education
A lack of awareness about GBV and its consequences can contribute to the perpetuation of violence. Community members, including men and boys, may not fully understand the importance of gender equality and the negative impact of violence.
Displacement and Camp Conditions
In times of conflict and displacement, living conditions in refugee or internally displaced persons (IDP) camps can expose individuals to heightened risks of violence against women and girls due to overcrowding, lack of security, and limited access to resources.
Normalization of Violence
In some contexts, violence against women may be normalized or accepted as part of cultural practices, making it difficult to address and challenge such behaviors.
Efforts to address gender-based violence in South Sudan require a comprehensive approach that involves legal reforms, awareness campaigns, education, community engagement, and support services for survivors. It’s important to recognize that these causes are deeply interconnected, and addressing them effectively requires a holistic and collaborative effort from government, civil society, international organizations, and communities themselves.
Prevention of violence against women and girls in South Sudan
Preventing gender-based violence against women and young girls in South Sudan requires a comprehensive and multi-pronged approach that addresses the underlying causes, challenges social norms, strengthens legal frameworks, and provides support services for survivors. Here are some strategies that can contribute to preventing GBV:
Legal Reforms and Enforcement
Government of South Sudan should strengthen and enforce existing laws that criminalize crime against women and girls, including domestic violence, sexual assault, and child marriage. They should also train law enforcement officials, judiciary, and legal professionals to handle GBV cases sensitively and effectively.
Education and Awareness
Government should reinforce awareness campaigns that targets both men and women to promote gender equality, challenge harmful gender norms, and educate communities about the consequences of GBV. The ministry of education should also incorporate comprehensive sexuality education in school curricula to teach young people about consent, respectful relationships, and their rights.
Gender violence is everyone’s problem therefore, its very vital for government and other governmental agencies to work with community leaders, religious leaders, and traditional authorities to change attitudes that perpetuate GBV and promote gender equality. Its also key to engage men and boys as allies in the prevention of GBV through programs that encourage positive masculinity and respectful behaviors.
Provide economic opportunities and vocational training for women and girls to enhance their financial independence and reduce their vulnerability to violence. This breaks the mythical believe of women relying solely on the finances of the man hence resulting in gender violence.
Health Services and Counseling
Government of South Sudan invest should improve access to quality healthcare services, including reproductive health care and mental health support, for survivors of GBV. They should also provide and enable counseling and psycho social support services for survivors to help them heal and rebuild their lives.
Promote girls’ education and provide scholarships to encourage their enrollment and retention in schools, reducing the likelihood of early marriages and violence.
Empower young people through youth-led initiatives that challenge harmful practices and promote gender equality.
Data Collection and Research
Collect and analyze data on GBV incidents to better understand the scale and nature of the problem, which can inform evidence-based interventions.
Collaboration and Partnerships
Establish collaborations among government agencies, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, and local communities to coordinate efforts and resources.
Media and Technology
Utilize media campaigns and technology to raise awareness about GBV, reach remote communities, and provide information on available support services.
Advocate for policy changes that prioritize the prevention of GBV, allocate resources for support services, and promote gender equality.
Preventing GBV requires a long-term commitment and a sustained effort from all levels of society. It’s important to engage communities and survivors themselves in the development and implementation of prevention strategies to ensure their effectiveness and cultural relevance. Additionally, regularly assessing and adapting interventions based on feedback and outcomes is crucial to achieving lasting change.