23rd September 2023
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OPINION: Confronting Gender-Based Violence in South Sudan; The Case of Acting Juba City Mayor

Author : | Published: Friday, September 15, 2023

Advocate Suzie Nyuon

South Sudan, once filled with hope, has tragically become synonymous with the persistent and haunting menace of gender-based violence (GBV). This is unraveling the distressing narrative of abuses suffered by women throughout the country, posing a perplexing question: How can we shatter the seemingly unbreakable cycle of violence?

We delve into the despicable acts committed against women by men in positions of power, men who believe it is acceptable to assault a woman. These acts include the physical assault of a street vendor by the acting Juba City Mayor, the horrifying incident of a security personnel who murdered his wife, and the appalling tale of a father gouging his daughter’s eyes.

These atrocities occurred seemingly ignorant of the existing legal framework designed to protect women and girls, despite over a decade of civil society and human rights activism.

The Questionable Actions of Juba City Acting Mayor

The incident involving the acting Juba City Mayor brandishing a pistol at a civilian and physically slapping her raises disturbing questions. Why did he resort to such an aggressive and threatening act? Was he prepared to inflict physical harm, or was his intention to subject the woman to severe emotional abuse? Did he realize that his actions were not merely targeting the vendor but also impacting her dependents and, more broadly, the countless women struggling to provide for their families on the streets of Juba and other towns across South Sudan?

The act of wielding a firearm at a civilian, and in this case a woman, is a blatant display of power and a flagrant abuse of authority. It sends shockwaves through the community, deepening the existing fear and insecurity that many women already endure daily.

Moreover, it highlights a deeply troubling attitude that some men in positions of power hold, one that normalizes aggression and perpetuates a culture of intimidation.

Women on the Frontlines and The Perennial Plight of South Sudanese Women

Women in the streets of Juba and other towns across South Sudan are often the unsung heroes, bravely fighting to provide sustenance for their children. They bear the weight of economic hardship, facing the daily challenge of putting food on the table and securing a better future for their families.

The incident involving the acting Juba City Mayor serves as a stark reminder that these women not only face economic adversity but also physical and emotional threats from those who should be their protectors.

In this context, South Sudan stands at a critical juncture, where the relentless scourge of GBV must be confronted head-on. This incident of the acting Juba City Mayor demands attention and action from the government.

The government must address the deeply ingrained culture of sexism, violence, and impunity, which has led to such egregious abuses. We must stand in solidarity with the women who courageously navigate the challenges of daily life, often in the face of adversity.

South Sudan’s journey toward eradicating GBV is a collective responsibility, one that requires transformative change, rigorous enforcement of existing laws, and a profound shift in societal attitudes. It is a journey toward a future where women and children can walk the streets without fear, knowing that their rights and dignity is safeguarded.

Women bear the weight of a painful legacy of violence. GBV in this nation takes multifarious forms, encompassing physical, psychological, and systemic abuses. The stories that emerge are heart-wrenching and unforgiving, painting a picture of the persistent suffering endured by South Sudanese women and girls.

The latest action of Acting Juba’s City Council Mayor is abhorrent and a stark reminder of how individuals in positions of authority can act above the law, further deepening the vulnerability of women.

All these chilling episodes of domestic violence are often fueled by a toxic mix of patriarchy and impunity, which continues to plague the lives of countless women in South Sudan.

Such incidents reflect a pervasive culture of violence that persists behind closed doors. And gruesome act that epitomizes the patriarchal ideologies deeply rooted within the society.

The example of brutality against young girls and women mentioned in this essay is characteristic of the broader spectrum of violence perpetrated against women at all levels of South Sudanese society.

The Protective Veil of Legislation

South Sudan has not been silent in the face of these atrocities. The nation has enacted several laws and policies aimed at protecting women and girls, including the Child Act, the Penal Code, and the Transitional Constitution.

Not only that, the regional and international conventions to which South Sudan is a party include, the Convention of the Elimination of Violence against Women, (CEDAW) and, the recently rectified Maputo Protocol, these legal instruments lay the foundation for addressing GBV and provide recourse for survivors.

The Unyielding Voices of Activism

Over the past decade, civil society organizations and human rights activists in South Sudan have tirelessly waged a battle against GBV.

They have embarked on awareness-raising campaigns that seek to challenge societal norms and prejudices, all while advocating for the protection of women and girls. Yet, despite their relentless efforts, GBV continues to persist, seemingly undeterred.

Breaking the Chains: A Path Forward

The question remains: How do we extricate South Sudanese women from the clutches of GBV and shield them from those in power who often act with impunity? The answer is complex but indispensable:

A Comprehensive Approach: The fight against GBV must be multifaceted, involving legislative reform, educational initiatives, and community engagement. These efforts must also challenge entrenched patriarchal norms.

Enforcing the Law: Laws designed to protect women and girls must be rigorously enforced. This requires holding perpetrators accountable, even when they occupy positions of power.

Education and Awareness: Comprehensive education programs must be implemented to change societal attitudes and dismantle toxic masculinity.

Support Services: Accessible and sensitive support services, including counseling, medical care, and legal assistance, must be made available for survivors.

Community Mobilization: Engaging communities in dialogue and action is crucial to combat GBV from within.

Women in Leadership: Promoting gender equality in leadership roles can bring about policies that better protect women’s rights.

South Sudan stands at a crossroads, where the painful legacy of GBV can either persist or be eradicated. Recent incidents, such as the Acting Juba City Mayor’s attack, serve as harsh reminders of the urgency of this issue.

As a nation, South Sudan must unite to break free from the chains of GBV, drawing strength from its existing legal framework and the unwavering efforts of activists. It is a call for transformation, a plea for justice, and a demand for a future

NOTE: The views in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Eye Radio’s editorial stance. The writer can be reached at:
Tell: +211(0) 915652660
Email: sebitsuzie11@gmail.com

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