Sudanese women are experiencing a sexual violence 'nightmare': Official to AWP

AWP , Saturday 18 May 2024

The President of the Unit for Combatting Violence Against Women and Children within the Sudanese Ministry of Labour and Social Development revealed that 159 cases of sexual violence against women were registered during the first year of the ongoing civil war.

Sulaima Ishaq - Head of the Unit for Combatting Violence Against Women and Children


However, she considers the figures to be unrealistic and represent only 2 or 3 per cent of the actual number of sexual crimes throughout Sudan.

Sulaima Ishaq, Head of the Unit for Combatting Violence Against Women and Children, told AWP, “We cannot say that these figures are real and include all cases, because the numbers are linked to services, which exist minimally during war.”

She added, “If we compare these numbers with the number of women in Sudan, who are all now at risk, and compare to locations where services are provided, especially in direct conflict zones – if they are even available – people will not have access to them. And it is these services that provide us with numerical data.”

Ishaq’s unit is facing an uphill challenge trying to reach women subjected to rape and sexual violence in Sudanese states which are cut off from communication, such as the states of Darfur and Kordofan.

She believes that the true scope of sexual violence against women in Sudan will only be revealed when the war, which began in April 2023, ends.

Ishaq explained, “One year into the war, Sudan is still experiencing the worst nightmares regarding sexual violence against women, in addition to violence in times of peace, because gender-based violence exists in Sudan in abundance and different rates and certain areas, and we have a history of it in conflict areas.”

She added, “According to the United Nations definition, all types of existing sexual violence against women, from the initial forms of sexual violence to the stages of sexual slavery, forced pregnancy, forced marriage, kidnapping, detention, and trafficking, which are among what is called human trafficking, have all occurred in an integrated manner and will not end unless the war ends. The situation may worsen after the war because many incidences have not been well documented.”

According to Ishaq, Sudanese women, young girls and children are the ones paying the heaviest price in times of war due to the lack of services, the loss of security and personal safety, and the scarcity of access to services that could provide justice.

Her unit is focused on awareness campaigns that teach young girls about the risks they may face in shelter centres.

She continued, “The lack of schools means more child marriages, more cases of female genital mutilation, and the disappearance of places where we can raise awareness about child protection. Therefore, children are exposed to many things. Most of what we worked on was raising awareness about dealing with children in emergency cases and how to train young girls because they are exposed to many dangers, and how they could provide services to their peers.” 

Ishaq stresses that issues related to women’s rights and child protection require a high level of political commitment from the state.

She said, “There will be problems regarding the country’s political landscape if we don’t find the commitment from the state because one of the most important aspects of formulating political landscapes is protecting women and children.”

The head of the Unit for Combatting Violence Against Women and Children concluded by emphasising the need for Sudanese women to seize the opportunity and benefit from the terrible experience of the war by establishing a system to protect women and children with state intervention.

“We can’t come out of this war with nothing. We, as women, after paying this heavy price during the war, must achieve gains,” Ishaq stressed.

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