‘Crisis of humanity’: UN condemns rising sexual violence in Sudan

UN agencies demand an end to sexual attacks against women and girls in the war-hit country and call for independent investigations.

Smoke rises over Khartoum
Smoke rises over Sudan's capital, Khartoum, amid intense fighting between the army and the Rapid Support Forces [File: AP Photo]

Top United Nations officials have expressed shock at increasing sexual violence against women and girls in Sudan as fighting in the country extends to nearly three months.

The vicious conflict between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces has killed thousands of people, forced millions from their homes and exacerbated an acute humanitarian crisis.

On Wednesday, a joint statement from UN agencies said the world body’s human rights office in Sudan has received credible reports of 21 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence against at least 57 women and girls since the conflict erupted on April 15.

“In one case, as many as 20 women were reportedly raped in the same attack,” the statement said.

The heads of the agencies demanded an immediate end to sexual violence as a tactic of war and called for thorough and independent investigations into all alleged violations and abuses to hold perpetrators to account.

Martin Griffiths, UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, said it was “unconscionable” that women and children whose lives have been upended by the war “are being further traumatized in this way”.

He added: “What we are witnessing in Sudan is not just a humanitarian crisis; it is a crisis of humanity.”

Human rights chief Volker Turk said women and girls are left with little or no medical and psychosocial support amid the intense fighting.

“There must be zero tolerance for sexual violence,” he said.

Even before Sudan was gripped by war, more than 3 million women and girls in the country were at risk of gender-based violence, according to UN estimates. This figure has since risen to an estimated 4.2 million people, the UN said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies