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New Manual on the Investigation and Prosecution of SGBV Cases in South Sudan Aims to Guide Concrete Actions to Support Responsive Justice System for Victims

Stakeholders met on Wednesday to review and discuss the contents of a manual on the investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases in South Sudan. The validation workshop was presided over by the Undersecretary of Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Hon. James Mayen Oka and the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare Hon. Esther Ikere.

“Sexual and gender-based violence is exacerbated because of the ongoing conflict but we also find it perpetuated during inter-community clashes. SGBV is too prevalent, period, even in times of peace. During times of conflict, the needs become very high and we need help in areas to address this,” said Hon. Ikere. “The era of silence must end and we must go beyond intentions and commitments to take concrete actions to set up more effective and responsive systems to address the problem.”

The manual is designed to serve as a practical resource guide tailored specifically to the context of South Sudan, for both investigators and prosecutors of SGBV crimes.

“Impunity in relation to SGBV is continuing in South Sudan. Convictions are not increasing, and the public prosecutor’s office is often not receiving the cases to begin with. The development of this manual is a national initiative which resulted from these circumstances, and seeks to be a catalyst for implementation of the rule of law and the SGBV response mechanism,” said UNDP Chief Technical Advisor Rowland Cole, during opening remarks.

“Some cases of SGBV are received from human rights organizations and not from victims and relatives. Due to the conservative nature of our society, people would not come out to speak out because it is considered shameful to acknowledge the reality. But these crimes need to be reported to the authorities,” said Hon. Oka. “I encourage all participants to examine this manual critically during the validation phase because it will serve as an important addition to the Code of Criminal Procedure, and act as a tool to getting investigators and prosecutors properly informed.”

Technical support for the draft manual was provided by a joint United Nations team, and representatives from UN Women, UNFPA, UNDP and UNMISS were on hand during the validation workshop  to express their continuing support to strengthening institutional responses and support to survivors of SGBV.

The representative for UNFPA highlighted the “One Stop Shop” developed at Juba Teaching Hospital as a resource for victims of SGBV, where they can receive immediate medical care, and access law enforcement services and psychosocial support in one location. The establishment of a fast-track court mechanism was also mentioned as a viable option to avoid SGBV case backlog within the judiciary, one which would only require policy decisions and political will, as opposed to developing a new law.

“Protection of boys and girls and women is a crucial component to build social cohesion and lasting peace in South Sudan,” said UN Women South Sudan Country Representative Funmi Balogun. “SGBV is a physical manifestation of cultural, religious and patriarchal values, and these crimes cut across ethnic, tribal, and class lines. More work must be done to prevent SGBV, by raising community awareness, engaging men in legal education, giving voices to women through empowerment programmes, and addressing impunity. The development of this manual is important because it demonstrates the government’s acknowledgement of the problem and its commitment to act.”

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
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