Following the release of a UN report on human rights violations in South Sudan on 11 March 2016, which detailed harrowing accounts of sexual violence committed against women and children, the Coalition wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP (copied to Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja AM). In this letter the Coalition urged the Australian Government to confirm its commitment to prioritising the Women, Peace and Security agenda in foreign policy by making a public statement drawing attention to these ongoing atrocities.
The UN report was produced by an assessment team sent to South Sudan by the UN High Commissioner from October 2015 to January 2016, in accordance with a resolution by the Human Rights Council in July 2015. The extreme brutality of sexual violence committed against women in South Sudan detailed in the report is alarming. The scale of sexual violence is particularly shocking; from April to September 2015, the UN recorded more than 1,300 reports of rape in just one of South Sudan’s ten states, Unity. The assessment team also documented reports of abductions of women in Unity, Upper Nile and Central Equatoria states. Some women and girls were forced to marry their aggressors, while credible sources also indicated that groups allied to the Government were being allowed to rape women as a reward in lieu of wages. The report concluded that the prevalence of rape is part of an intentional strategy to terrorise and punish civilians.
Following our letter, the Coalition was encouraged that Australia spoke out in the interactive dialogue on South Sudan at the Human Rights Council condemning abuses being perpetrated routinely by all parties in South Sudan. This included specific reference to the practice of rewarding Government-allied troops with abducted women in lieu of wages.
The Coalition looks forward to seeing the Australian Government continue to prioritise the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in foreign policy, including urging further action to improve security for women and girls in South Sudan.