JUBA, South Sudan

The formal end to South Sudan’s five-year civil war in September 2018 is something that South Sudanese women will never forget.

Women and girls had long experienced high levels of gender-based violence (GBV) and had limited ways to address these crimes. But once civil war fueled by ethnic divisions engulfed the country in 2013, violence against women and girls grew even more pronounced. From 2013 until the end of 2018, soldiers on both sides of the conflict used sexual violence and torture, especially of women and girls, as part of their military strategies.

Aluel, a 29-year-old woman, is recuperating after enduring rape.

“When I was raped, it disturbed me a lot. But thank God some of my friends brought me to a hospital, where I got some medical services,” she told Anadolu Agency, urging the government to institute severe measures against the perpetrators of the vice.

“I was about to run mad when I was raped,” she said, expressing fear she may be infected.

Aluel described the risks she had to take in order to get treatment.

She said the hospital was too far from where she stayed and she did not want to be raped again on the way there.

For 20-year-old Susan, three men raped her one dark evening while she was returning home from running an errand and left her for dead.

She sought medical treatment quickly and has since recovered.

“It’s hard to show up in public once you’ve been raped. But the best thing to do is to gather the courage and report (the crime) to the authorities,” she said.

The ordeal has caused Susan to lose trust in men, including those close to her.

“When those men approached me, I thought they were going to discuss something. But unfortunately, they ended up raping me,” she said.

“I have to be very careful with men now. Even my own brother or boyfriend I will not trust.”

Rebecca, a 40-year-old mother of five who was gang-raped by members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) in Western Equatoria state in 2018, called on the government to draft very strong laws that will deal with those who are raping women in the country.

Rebecca never accessed healthcare after being raped due to the destruction and occupation of health facilities by armed groups in the region.

“I was bleeding for almost a week and had nowhere to go because all the healthcare (facilities) in the area were destroyed,” she said.

“Since we have peace, I want the government to correct all the mess so that we do not become victims of rape again. I still hear the news of rapes until now. I don’t know who are those still raping women.”

Anadolu Agency visited Juba Teaching Hospital in the capital, and rape cases were among the 488 cases of gender-based violence which prompted women to seek treatment in 2020.

Health authorities at the hospital said they responded to about 488 cases of rape, physical violence and other issues related to gender-based violence in 2020 and they are still filling up for 2021.

Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare Ayaa Benjamin Warrile has urged the newly reconstituted parliament to pass a bill to fight GBV.

She said the bill will help reform, consolidate and harmonize laws and provisions related to GBV.

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