South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011. A 2005 peace deal that ended Africa's longest-running civil war was responsible for this. The newly independent state plunged into crisis in December 2013 amid a power struggle between the president and his deputy whom he had sacked. Fighting between government troops and rebel factions erupted, and within weeks the conflict had killed thousands and prompted more than 800,000 to flee their homes. The dispute is rooted within a number of issues including border disputes, oil production, farm land, and cattle herding grounds between various ethnic groups. The civil war is an ongoing concern as it still continues after over a year and a half. This article attempts to look into the degradation of women during civil wars and the laws available to protect them.
During conflicts such as this, a large number of people lose their lives. But, this is not only atrocity committed during such civil wars. Both sides have committed extraordinary acts of cruelty, that amount to war crimes and potentially against humanity, ranging from ethnically motivated murders of civilians to gang rapes and mass destruction and looting of civilian property. In this article we are focusing on the atrocities against women, who are among the most vulnerable group of sufferers. This is because; women have to face abuse not only from members of opposition ethnic groups but also from men of their own ethnic community, domestic violence being the least of their problems.
Although most of the nation states vouch for equality between different genders, there is much to be desired in reality.The actual accounts of discrimination are glaringly exposed only during times of war and civil conflict.The women of South Sudan have borne the worst of thecrisis their country is going through.Fighters target them for rapes, beatings and forced labour. The human rights watch released a 42-page report in July, 2014, which documented 63 cases of rape, including gang rape and cases in which women were raped by multiple fighters.
Rape has become “just a normal thing” for women caught up in civil war. Some survivors have recounted their experience to HRW saying that “if you run they kill you, so you just close your eyesso you don’t see the rapes.” There has been a surge in sexual violence since April, 2015, when government began a multi-pronged military campaign to recapture territory held by rebels. Amid killing of civilians, pillaging of property, destruction, a number of women have been subject to abominable sexual violence. One woman was made to watch her two daughters being gang raped and tortured and one of them was burned. Women who have evaded rape, couldn’t save themselves from being beaten, even then they consider themselves lucky. Other women and children who are abducted are made to carry looted goods and herd cattle on journey that can last for days. Women are forced to cook for the fighters and beaten as they work.
Although the UN has put up shelters for internally displaced people (IDP), it is difficult to say that they have been successful in catering to the needs of the people. Majority of IDPs in the UN shelter are women. These women in IDP settlements suffer from poor health and maternity care, and lack of food for their children and themselves. Those who tried to access their homes, to combat such dire conditions were abducted and assaulted. The condition has become that they can’t even go out to access water. The few women who are successful enough to evade assault find that their homes have been taken over and occupied by others. For those who haven’t had enough motivation to leave the UN protected camps, the risk is not over yet. There is a risk of sexual violence even in the camp, particularly when they go out to collect water or use latrines on the night.
The conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina brought world recognition for the issue of the rape of women as a means of warfare. The International Committee of the Red Cross has long considered sexual violence as a war crime and a serious violation of international humanitarian law.The International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, both have prosecuted and convicted perpetrators of sexual violence against women. In addition, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) also explicitly mentions sexual violence as a war crime.The Third Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War stipulates that prisoners of war shall be treated humanely at all times. Besides this general protection, women are also afforded special protection based on the principle outlined in Article 14, paragraph 2, that " women shall be treated with all the regard due to their sex " .
The South Sudan justice system is not equipped enough to combat such large scale violence. In addition to that there is lack of political will. The end of this vicious cycle of crime scenes is visibly too far. The international community needs to open its eyes and see the suffering these vulnerable people and step into at least reduce such atrocities if not end them.
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14069082 last visited 26-08-15
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http://www.hrw.org/node/126088 last visited 26-08-15
https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/07/21/south-sudan-widespread-atrocities-government-offensive last visited 26-08-15
 https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/08/05/south-sudans-war-womenlast visited 26-08-15
http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/sep/11/women-south-sudan-sexual-violence-campslast visited 26-08-15
Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court: the Elements of War Crimes, Knut Dörmann
 Art 7, ICC