Kalma Camp — Displaced women in Darfur have commended the recently published UN Report of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence in 2016.
"Since the outbreak of the war and the government's support of the Arab herders we call janjaweed, there has not been a single day without news on sexual harassment," a woman activist told Radio Dabanga from Kalma camp for the displaced in South Darfur.
"In particular when we leave our villages or camps to collect water, firewood and straw, we are in danger of being assaulted and raped."
She said that the women group of the Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association support the recommendations of the report. "We entirely agree with the call for the recognition of conflict-related sexual violence as a form of persecution. This is also important for the clarification of the legal status of children born as a result of rape.
"For years now, we have been demanding the protection of displaced women, accountability of perpetrators of rape. Victims' relatives should be able to file a complaint without being harassed, and victims have the right to adequate health and psychological care."
The UN Report, published in April this year, states that the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (Unamid) documented 100 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence, affecting 222 victims, specifically 102 women, 119 girls, and one boy between January and December last year. Ten percent of these cases occurred during displacement.
The incidents included rape, gang rape, attempted rape, abduction for the purpose of sexual assault and sexual harassment, primarily in North Darfur, coinciding with the presence of militias. Rapists in Darfur "continue to operate in a climate of impunity," the report reads.
According to data of the Sudanese government, 112 cases of sexual and gender-based violence were reported between January and December 2016, of which 40 were brought to court, with 13 convictions.
The UN lauds the initiatives undertaken by the Sudanese government, "including amendment of the Criminal Act to make a clear distinction between rape and adultery, and the expansion of the mandate of the Darfur Special Court to include rape", but notes that "The legally discontinued, but still widely upheld, requirement that victims obtain a specific form ("form 8") from the police in order to receive medical care deters reporting."
As sexual violence cases are not consistently prosecuted, many communities resort to traditional settlements, which often decree that the victim should marry the perpetrator. Despite the lasting impact of sexual violence on survivors, including those with children born as a result of rape, no reparations have been paid, the UN notes
According to a report of the Sudanese Interior Ministry issued in April this year, 348 rape cases were recorded between April 2016 and March 2017.
The Darfur Criminal Prosecutor reported in March that 35 complaints of rape were registered in Darfur during the first two and a half months of 2017 alone.