South Sudan

Sexual Violence in South Sudan (January 2022)

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Despite a January 2020 recommitment by the South Sudanese government and opposition groups to a ceasefire agreement, 2020 and 2021 were marked by increased insecurity and conflict in South Sudan. All armed groups have been accused of committing abuses against civilians, including sexual violence, which is frequently used as a tactic to displace and terrorise rival communities.

Our new report analyses a sample of 40 reported incidents of conflict-related sexual violence that occurred in South Sudan between January 2020 and August 2021 in order to provide insight into the patterns and nature of reported conflict-related sexual violence in the country.

The incidents in the report do not show the full-scale of sexual violence incidents in South Sudan and we welcome any collaboration in order to enhance monitoring and reporting of these incidents.

Summary of findings

Conflict-related sexual violence is frequently committed by groups of men, highlighting the extent to which acts of sexual violence are not individual crimes, but are closely linked to conflict-related group dynamics.

Members of state forces committed the majority of reported acts of conflict-related sexual violence in South Sudan, particularly during incidents of more general violence against civilians.

Women and girls were often attacked by members of state forces during clashes with armed groups and counter-insurgency operations, highlighting the extent to which sexual violence may be part of the strategy to fight insurgents by attacking their families or to strengthen group cohesion among perpetrators.

Women and girls were also attacked by members of non-state armed groups while collecting firewood. Members of non-state armed actors were more often implicated in gang rapes involving a single survivor.

Sexual violence often occurred during home invasions and looting by both state and non-state armed actors. Sexual violence against women and girls in South Sudan continues largely with impunity, although 46 sexual attackers have been held accountable.

State forces were implicated in rape committed during armed clashes with insurgents, during counter-insurgency campaigns, while they were in pursuit of criminal elements, and during unauthorised activities such as looting, affecting many women during a single operation. Non-state armed actors were more often implicated in gang rapes involving a single survivor. These incidents occurred in the bush while survivors were performing ordinary household activities, such as collecting firewood or water.

The incidents cited in the report are available as a dataset on our website or on HDX.