Increased Rape Attacks in South Sudan report MSF

The Federation of Medical Women of Canada is one of 70 organizational and individual members of the Women, Peace and Security Network - Canada. The FMWC WPS committee supports the Network’s mandate in: 1) promoting and monitoring the efforts of the Government of Canada to implement and support the United Nation Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security; and, 2) providing a forum for exchange and action by Canadian civil society on issues related to women, peace and security.

The Federation of Medical Women of Canada is alarmed over reports of the rape, robbery and beating of over 125 women and girls that occurred in the area of Bentiu in South Sudan over a period of 10 days in November 2018.

The rapes have been reported by Medicins sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders, who have witnessed a spike in gender-based violence in the area. Women and young girls traveling beyond the Bentiu Protection of Civilians site have been tied up, beaten and raped by young men, many of them wearing military clothing.

My body hasn’t been the same since”  18-year survivor

Civil war has roiled South Sudan since 2013, killing thousands and displacing millions to crowded refugee camps, or Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites. In 2014, over 400 people were killed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in the Bentiu Massacre, which devastated the area and drove people from the town to one of 6 U.N. PoC sites in South Sudan. The Bentiu PoC is the largest of these sites, with a population of over 115,000. The situation in the PoC is desperate for its inhabitants, driving women outside its walls in search of firewood and food. They know the risks but have no choice but to take them, travelling at some distance from the PoC to U.N. food distribution sites. En route, they have been targeted, held captive, their belongings looted, their bodies violated.

UN peacekeeping patrols have been increased in the area and focused attention is directed at clearing the war-ravaged roads to enable food distribution closer to villages. There is suspicion among humanitarian workers that the attackers are demobilized military youth, although local authorities deny the attacks have occurred. Special investigators from the UN have travelled to Bentiu. We look forward to hearing the results of their investigation.

That the rapes and beatings have occurred during the UN 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence and have come to light as the campaign came to a close on December 10 is doubly troubling. Rape is commonly used as a weapon of war and MSF reports that the word among women is that violence is escalating in the area as the peace brokered in September 2018 struggles against the reality on the ground.

The FMWC supports the statement issued by the Canadian Embassy to South Sudan calling for a full investigation into the situation and holding accountable those responsible for these horrendous actions:

The Embassy of Canada is deeply troubled by reports of rape and sexual assault, beating and robbery of approximately 150 women near Nhialdu and Guit, Bentiu, and joins the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General and a growing list of voices in calling for a focus on the needs of the survivors, a thorough investigation of the reported crimes, and a commitment to bring those responsible to justice.

The brutal attacks against women and girls in the Bentiu area not only requires immediate action, it requires immediate reflection on how the issue of sexual and gender based violence continues to challenge the full promise of South Sudan. The obligation to protect citizens, and ensure their rights under the law, is essential to fulfilling that promise.

As we recognize the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, we call on all parties to challenge violence against the women and girls of South Sudan.”


Nahid Azad, MD, FRCP, CCPE
Chair, Women, Peace and Security Committee
Federation of Medical Women of Canada