A women's parliamentary caucus in South Sudan's border state of Warrap has called for enactment of laws which upholds and respect women's rights and protects them from domestic violence, asserting that across the country women still faced considerable challenges.
“There should be absolute attentions to addressing women's plights. Women continue to face a lot of difficulties today. Girls are married as teenagers, used up, exploited and when they die sometimes at birth, the relatives-in-law, those of her husband, comes and say they need [the] cows they have paid as dowry to family members of the deceased because she is dead. This practice must be discouraged and stopped completely. Authorities must do something about it”, Adut Madut, the chairperson of Warrap Women Parliamentary Caucus said on Thursday.
Adut said she and her committee had visited Tonj North, one of the counties in the state where women in particular face a lot of difficulties, including killing by rival communities.
“I last year visited Ananatak in Tonj county. Our mission was to assess [the] general situation, particularly those affecting women. We held meetings with chiefs and local authorities. During these meetings we found a lot of things. Firstly, we found that women are not in courts. We need women to be [in] courts because of the most cases involved women. Secondly, we also found out women are dying. They are being killed during tribal conflicts. This has never happened before. We have never seen women being killed [before] even [if] they are caught in the middle of fighting [until] now. Women and children are now killed ruthlessly. No mercy”, she explained.
She called on the government to act quickly in order to avert the situation from developing further by ensuring that more laws and were enacted, as well as fully implemented.
“It is time for government, communities, families and individuals to commit themselves to taking joint responsibility for tackling the root causes of gender-based violence. The culture of impunity must not be tolerated. It must end. The abuse of women must be stopped”, she said
She urged women to speak out against the violence and expose their suffering to the outside world, adding that the government must also intervene at the earliest possible time with corrective actions.
“I call on women, wherever they are, not only in Warrap state to open up widely and remain vigilant against any abuse, whether it is about forced marriage or domestic violence”, she said
Adut said police authorities should strengthen their fight against gender-based violence and sexual offences, and take steps to ramp up child protection measures so that more offenders can be prosecuted. She also called for special sexual crimes courts to be opened across the country and for a sexual offenders' database to be maintained.
“Citizens can help by becoming actively involved in this campaign. They must [be] a watchdog for the system. They need to report criminal behaviour to the police. But it is frustrating that perpetrators are protected by their victims and communities. This culture must change”, she said.
Meanwhile in Juba, Prisical Nyanyang, deputy minister for gender, child and social welfare described violence against women as having “no boundary”.
“Women are being assaulted daily. Violence against them has no identity. It has no boundary. It is happening everywhere. Women are being brutally abused,” she said, while not pointing a finger at any particular group, she said those who abuse women “know who they are”.
The minister, who spoke on the occasion of worldwide Valentine's Day on 14 February urged women to be respectful to their husbands, to show them love and continue to persuade them to respect their rights and responsibilities.
“Women's abuse comes in different forms. There are those abused as a result of their behaviours and those who have [a] genuine case of abuse. There must be a respect in marriage. There should be peace. There should be an understanding. There should be dialogue and love”, she said.
South Sudan's minister of information, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said his government promotes protection of women's rights and does not tolerate any violence against women whatsoever.
“As [a] government we have a constitutional commitment to respect women and promote them in all our working institutions. It is the policy of the government that any institution or anything which does not involve women will not be recognised. The legality of such group or institution will be subjected to public scrutiny and will not be allowed to exist”, Marial said on Thursday.
As part of Valentine's Day celebrations, Women in Juba flooded markets and hotels carrying flowers and other items decorated with symbols of loves. Many danced and sang love songs, while other sent greetings to friends via text messages or social media if they were unable to afford cell phone messages.