Khartoum — A UNITED Nations (UN) envoy has expressed shock at the prevalence of sexual violence in Sudan, where government and religious leaders are complicit.
Pramila Patten, Special representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, expressed outrage at the culture of denial which enhanced the culture of silence about sexual violence.
Speaking in New York at her just-concluded visit, she blamed senior government officials, legislators and civil society representatives for the trend most widespread in the Darfur region
Patten said unlike victims of other crimes where perpetrators were condemned, it was usually the victims of sexual violence who were shamed or stigmatised.
"As a result, victims of sexual violence are very often fearful of reporting the crime or seeking assistance, further compounding their suffering," the envoy said.
During her visit at the invitation by government, she established that women were raped while collecting water or firewood, or when they left refugee camps to pursue livelihood activities.
Some women were unable to return to their pre-war homes due to the absence of security and fears of being raped. In addition, women suffered sexual violence during inter-communal conflicts over land and natural resources.
Non-governmental organisations said they felt restricted from carrying out programmes on sexual violence for fear of reprisal. Patten expressed hope the government would agree to adopt a joint communiqué with the UN to end the violations.
"There must be no doubt that perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations will be held accountable," she said.