Incidents of gender-based violence, with girls and women making up the vast majority of those being subjected to it, are increasing in Eastern Equatoria State.
At a recent consultative forum in Torit, organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), it was revealed that the special protection unit of the town’s central police station has received about 470 reports of such aggressions in the last two months alone, which represents a significant increase.
“Unfortunately, many of the perpetrators are not being held accountable, and that is a big problem,” said Dominica Idwa Vitale, Director General at the state’s Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare.
According to the 40 women, including representatives of various government offices and civil society organizations, among the other challenges facing those who try to put an end to these crimes are a lack of funding and, perhaps more importantly, deeply ingrained cultural beliefs and practices among citizens.
“As chiefs, we deal with a lot of issues when it comes to addressing gender-based violence, but the main difficulty is probably that the male population, not least those who are involved in incidents, insist on sticking to harmful cultural practices,” said Debora Ajier, a sub-chief in the Hawai Messer area of Torit town.
Forum participants did not miss the opportunity to come up with ideas on how best to reduce violence targeting girls and women. The establishment of a court specialized in cases of such assaults was one, providing paralegal training to community mobilisers another, as such capacity building would mean having more people in the communities being able to provide survivors with advice on legal procedures.
Caroline Waudo, Head of the peacekeeping mission’s Field Office in Eastern Equatoria, acknowledged the severity of the problem and pledged continued UN support to curb it.
“Gender-based violence is definitely a priority. We know that the protection of women and girls must be improved, and the same goes for awareness-raising on the gravity and negative impacts of these practices. We are committed to sharing our capacity and technical assistance to the best of our ability,” she said.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).