134 women, girls raped in S. Sudan's unity region in 3 months: UN
15 Feb 2019, 23:29 ( 3 Months ago)
At least 134 women and girls were raped and 41 others suffered other forms of sexual and physical violence in South Sudan's northern Unity region in three months, a joint UN report released on Friday reveals.
The report by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) highlights steadily high levels of sexual violence in the region between September and December 2018.
Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the volatility of the situation combined with the lack of accountability for violations and abuses committed throughout Unity, likely leads armed actors to believe that they can get away with rape and other horrific forms of sexual violence.
"Sadly, we have continued to receive reports of rape and gang rape in northern Unity since the beginning of this year," Bachelet said in a joint statement.
She called on the authorities to ensure that humanitarian organizations can conduct their work without fear of reprisals and with unobstructed access to victims.
The report warns that although attacks against civilians have decreased significantly since the peace agreement was signed on September 12, 2018, endemic conflict-related sexual violence continues in northern Unity.
The UN said the sexual violence was committed in a context of "pervasive impunity, which contributed to the normalization of violence against women and girls," the report notes.
UNMISS said it immediately engaged with political leaders and security services after receiving initial reports of the increase in reported cases of sexual violence.
The Mission said it also increased peacekeeping patrols and cleared foliage from roads to make it more difficult for attackers to conceal their presence.
According to the UN, almost 90 percent of the women and girls were raped by more than one perpetrator and often over several hours.
Pregnant women and nursing mothers were also victims of sexual violence. In one incident alone on Dec. 17, 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.
According to the report, survivors of sexual violence described being brutally beaten by perpetrators with rifle butts, sticks, small firearms and cable wires, if they attempted to resist their assailants or after they were raped.