The mass coverage of rape and other – related offences since the start of the conflict in South Sudan in December 2013 has highlighted the horrific scale of civilian abuse, shedding a much needed gender perspective onto violence dynamics in the country. Detailed accounts of sexual violence at the hands of South Sudan’s warring parties and their related forces have come to dominate commentary on the country’s conflict, suggesting that women’s (and at times men’s) bodies are among the battlefields where the war is being fought. Both the government under the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) and the opposition under the SPLA-In Opposition (IO), as well as other armed groups (OAGs), have been accused of using sexual violence as a “weapon of war,” offences that have been labeled “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.”
Drawing on in-depth interviews and focus-group discussions with around 360 research participants across three field sites (Juba, Mingkaman and Akobo), this report attempts to clarify some of the oft-noted assumptions about sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in South Sudan’s conflict, while at the same time emphasizing South Sudanese understandings of SGBV and preferences for redress for sexual crimes. While the report documents and details some of the sexual violence atrocities committed by the warring parties since the start of the conflict in December 2013, it also demonstrates that an exclusive focus on sexual violence by armed actors in South Sudan can be misleading in terms of the actual SGBV-related security concerns of families and communities, as well as the realities of local-level violence.