September 24, 2018

Panel of Experts: SGBV is “rampant” in Darfur

In what is surely the least surprising news of the month, the Sudanese government has rejected the Report of the UN Panel of Experts, released late last week. To my shame I am only reading it now. Not all the way through it yet, I stopped my reading to blog on the section I’ve just finished, in which the Panel reports that “sexual and gender-based violence is rampant”.  I’m pasting the relevant section in full below in case anyone finds the prospect of a hundred page UN report daunting to wade through. The section concludes:

“After the expulsion of the international non-governmental organizations on 4 March 2009, internally displaced persons women who were already suffering from lack of adequate humanitarian services lost access to the medical and psychosocial support offered by those organizations. That support has not been replaced, either for lack of capacity on the part of the Government of the Sudan or because of distrust on the part of internally displaced persons women. One consequence is that no independent monitoring of localized violence and sexual and gender-based violence currently exists. UNAMID has not been able to fill this gap.”

I feel like I am repeating myself on a daily basis about this at the moment, but while it remains true I can’t really do anything but keep it up. Whenever it is reported that aid services following the expulsions are back “near a hundred percent capacity” people need to be asking, what about services for rape survivors? Unlike the “life saving sectors”,  for which the AU-UN did a joint assessment of gaps following the expulsions, there has been no parallel assessment for GBV services. Claims about capacity regained can only be made on the basis of what we know about capacity lost.  Until an assessment is done of this issue, we don’t even know where we stand.

The obvious constituencies that you imagine would create an outcry about this – those directly affected (Darfuris) and those directly supporting them (aid organizations) – are really not in a position to do so. What we have here is the perfect storm of a reluctance on the part of those directly affected to speak out, for completely understandable reasons related to social stigma, and risk of legal repercussions, coupled with a reluctance on the part of the organizations on the ground to kick up a fuss in case they are expelled.  My fear is that unless this changes, and these services are reinstated, then a year down the track the Sudanese state denial machine about rape in Darfur will have won. There will be no reporting of rape, because without any services available to support your recovery, why would you?

The relevant section of the PoE report is below:

1. Background

60. Foremost in this section, the Panel would like to highlight sexual and gender based violence as an important manifestation of the localized violence and as a subject that is often left unaddressed by the conventional treatment of the Darfur crisis. The Panel’s monitoring has revealed that sexual and gender-based violence is rampant.

61. From the earliest stages of the original conflict between nomadic and agrarian Darfurians and the subsequent counter-insurgency, traditional mechanisms through which local violence used to be addressed were compromised and eventually destroyed. In the context of sexual and gender-based violence, the traditional arbitration involved males of the communities seeking retribution for each rape. The Government used to rely on native administrations to act as arbiters in disputes among local people. Sheikhs or umdas would mediate in conflicts, particularly with their counterparts in other tribes to resolve inter-tribal conflicts.

62. The inter-tribal fighting associated with the Darfur conflict has dislodged these traditional remedies and elevated males of some communities or tribes to a level of power that ensures them impunity for acts of sexual and gender-based violence. Community leaders have been undermined and lost their ability to mediate in conflicts. The males of victimized communities have lost the ability to seek redress and thus women are left without protection.

2. Monitoring of current cases of sexual and gender-based violence

63. The expulsion of the international non-governmental organizations on 4 March 2009 has eliminated an important independent source of information for the international community, since those organizations offered relevant services in relation to sexual and gender-based violence, such as women-friendly spaces, and medical and psychosocial support.

64. The Panel’s own monitoring confirms that sexual and gender-based violence continues to be perpetrated throughout Darfur. The majority of such incidents occur in rural areas where security is insufficient. To attempt to assess the current plight of women, the Panel visited El Fasher, Kabkabiya, Masterei, Morniey, Mukjar, Saraf Jidad, Tawila and Zalingei, in July and August 2009, and documented more than 50 individual cases and received testimonies from hundreds of women in these areas.

65. In areas prone to sexual and gender-based violence women and girls restrict their movement to areas where they may relatively safely pursue income-generating activities. Those who are driven by need, however, sacrifice their safety and venture outside their safer boundaries, running the risk of abuse and rape.

66. Internally displaced persons reported to the Panel dozens of instances of harassment, violence and rape that occurred during the past two years while the victimized women pursued livelihood activities. In Hasa Hisa camp for internally displaced persons in Zalingei, women reported that there are up to 35 incidents per week during the rainy season, when they engage in farming activities.

67. One case that demonstrates the frequency and severity of violence against women occurred north of Al Hamadiya camp in Zalingei. A woman who had been raped and suffered a gunshot wound in 2003 while fleeing her village, was again gang-raped and stabbed in the leg on 15 May 2009, while she was collecting firewood with a group of 20 women. The assailants, three armed men in khaki uniforms, inflicted genital injuries upon her and then left her bleeding. Following the incident, she spent 45 days in hospital recovering.

68. The Panel has documented cases of sexual assault committed against pregnant women and young girls. On 31 May 2009, in Kodo, West Darfur, four armed men wearing military uniforms chased and assaulted a group of women who were collecting firewood. As a result of these assaults a 12-year-old girl required medical treatment after she was raped.

69. According to residents and community leaders in Kabkabiya, women, who do most of the farming and collect firewood on the outskirts of the town, have been raped by individuals they refer to as Janjaweed. However, cases that are reported to the local police seldom make it through the judicial system of Kabkabiya since there is no judge there. The last time a permanent judge sat on the bench in Kabkabiya, was in 2007, before members of the counter-insurgency attacked the court house and later, in another incident, attacked the local prison and freed all their imprisoned relatives. Now, a judge is sent from El Fasher to Kabkabiya on an ad hoc basis to consider cases.

70. The local police in Kabkabiya refused to provide details of specific rape cases. While stating that women who work outside the town are exposed to the risk of being raped, the police also explained that the ethnicity of perpetrators is not recorded since the “incidence of rape in Kabkabiya is no different from that in other countries”.

3. Support mechanisms

71. The Government of the Sudan established the State Committee on Sexual and Gender-based Violence to address sexual violence in Darfur, raise awareness on issues of sexual and gender-based violence in the Darfur region and also establish in police stations throughout Darfur units for combating violence against women and children. However, all these mechanisms have so far failed to change the status quo in Darfur; the State Committee lacks guidance and financial support, and the police units lack capacity and adequate female police representation, which cultural norms in the Sudan require.

72. After the expulsion of the international non-governmental organizations on 4 March 2009, internally displaced persons women who were already suffering from lack of adequate humanitarian services lost access to the medical and psychosocial support offered by those organizations. That support has not been replaced, either for lack of capacity on the part of the Government of the Sudan or because of distrust on the part of internally displaced persons women. One consequence is that no independent monitoring of localized violence and sexual and gender-based violence currently exists. UNAMID has not been able to fill this gap.

Comments

  1. ogweno james says:

    I am at a loss on how the world functions! Seems there are different sets of guidelines for prosecuting and/or reacting to crimes against humanity. Why would be a sudden rush to Palestine and the least consideration to Darfur! What would the current US administration’s plus be on foreign policy advancement at the close of 2012 if these things continue in the 21st century?

  2. Bec Hamilton says:

    I would have to say I find it hard to see the “sudden rush to Palestine” you speak of, and – despite my frustrations over the global failure to deal with the collapse of GBV services in Darfur – I would say Darfur has had more than the “least consideration”, not only by this Administration but also the previous one, in large part due to the persistent effort of advocates to keep it on the front pages. But for sure there is an inequality with how the US and the world reacts to different forms of suffering. I just always fear the argument around this leads one to the position of saying, because we’re not dealing with X as much as Y, we should pull back on X (rather than add resources to Y).

  3. Hilary Heijmen says:

    What is the UN doing ???? I agree that Obama and Clinton should be
    doing something but what is the UN doing about it ????

  4. Bec Hamilton says:

    The UN and the AU need to do a joint assessment of this issue, as well as others (like education) that were missed in their first post-expulsion review of the gaps. Until they at least do that, it’s impossible to plan around how to proceed.

  5. Any good resources on what it means for services to be near “a hundred percent capacity” means?

    I doubt anyone would say life saving services shouln’t d be the priority, but sounds like there is a fundamental problem if our State Department or international institutions believe that we can be at full delivery of humanitarian services without addressing the effects of gender based violence.

  6. Bec Hamilton says:

    I believe Gration’s original quote on that was on the basis of filling gaps that had been identified in the joint UN-AU assessment of “life saving sectors” – because the assessment didn’t include GBV services one could say that services were restored comparative to that assessment without thinking about what had happened to GBV services at all (Note also though that claiming services were near a hundred percent again when some of that was a consequence of operating on emergency-only measures that the UN was quite clear were not sustainable was, I think, misleading). HOWEVER, if you listened to #AskUS last week you will see there has been a welcome shift in the administration’s language on this and Gration was clear to point out in that meeting that services had not all been restored. So I think the small but growing public advocacy around this issue is beginning to have an effect in terms of at least recognising there is a problem . .

Trackbacks

  1. […] The Promise of Engagement Investigating the past 6 years of Darfur policy and citizen advocacy Skip to content Bec HamiltonAuthor’s resumeAbout the projectAbout the interviewsUPCOMING PODCASTSSubmit a question « Panel of Experts: SGBV is “rampant” in Darfur […]

  2. […] Gerson pens an article that tells of these very troubling tales.  Bec Hamilton also this week discusses the latest UN Panel of Experts report that states that “sexual and gender-based violence is rampant” in […]

  3. […] at the end of October, the UN Panel of Experts released a report which drew attention to the gaps in medical and psychosocial services for Darfuri women, at which point Reuters Khartoum-based reporter wrote on the issue. Now, […]

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