DWAG Calls on the International Community to End Violence Against Women in Darfur

March 14, 2013

During the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations, the Darfur Women Action Group urges members of the international community to address the systematic violence directed toward women and their families throughout the 10 years of violence in Darfur.

The situation has been exacerbated by the lack of meaningful participation of female Darfuri civil society leaders in the regional and international forums, which provide them with opportunities to voice their demands or articulate their issues. Despite many years of suffering, women in Darfur have been doing incredible work supporting their communities and serving the most vulnerable populations in the camps. However, they still lack resources and effort needed to build the institutional capacity for their local NGOs.

Today, the situation on the ground in Darfur is truly dire. Girls as young as seven and eight years old are raped and some die as the result. Countless others have been ostracized because of the social stigma surrounding sexual and gender based violence. Women are considered spoiled because of rape and abandoned by their husbands and families. Many of the children born as the result of rape are left to die without care.

Despite the alarming rate at which rape and other forms of sexual violence occur as part of the ongoing genocide in Darfur, little has been done to address this deadly phenomenon. There have been no studies to determine the exact number of women raped or the actual impact of sexual violence on women and girls in Darfur. Women survivors are in desperate need of trauma counseling and psychosocial support as well as projects designed to provide fuel alternatives that could keep women safe inside the camps. Instead, women are left to go in search of firewood and other means of sustenance and risk facing this cruel act of violence on a daily basis.

The government of Sudan continues to obstruct any effort to put an end to this tragic situation which has persisted for years. The African Union-United National Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world, is failing to meaningfully impact the security situation on the ground or provide protection for civilians. Despite Sudan’s ratification of several international human rights and humanitarian laws that are favorable to women rights, Sudan has no political will to meet its obligation on those terms. Further, Sudan continues to be reluctant to ratify the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). All the international instruments that concern violence against women such as UN Security Council Resolutions UNSCRs 1325, 1820 and 1888 have not been implemented. Furthermore, many Sudanese laws and policies are discriminative and create unfavorable conditions for women in Darfur and all parts of Sudan including the capital, Khartoum.

Women represent about half of any nation’s talent and human resources, and even more so during times of war. In the midst of crises during which states’ resources are typically stretched to the limit, no society can afford to sideline those resources. Sadly in Sudan, where rape has been used as a weapon of war, women are extremely affected and they are still oppressed, having been forced to live in silence for all these years.

Women represent the overwhelming majority of the IDPs and refugees in Darfur and neighboring countries. Despite being victims of war and the long suffering that they have been enduring, women have demonstrated an outstanding resilience, strength and resolve to combat genocide and serve as spokespersons and leaders within their communities. Nevertheless, the abilities of women have not yet been utilized effectively by actors and stakeholders working to bring peace to Darfur. Unless women’s issues are brought to the forefront first, a sustainable end to the crisis will remain unattainable.

Ten years after the conflict began the situation for women in Darfur remains dismal. Widespread rape and sexual violence against women and girls continues to spread even in the absence of fighting. Recent trends show that Darfuri women are being systematically targeted even within other regions of Sudan especially in the capital Khartoum. There is also an increase in violence against female civil society leaders within the Sudan at large. Female civil society leaders are continuously abused by the authorities for raising their concerns about the repressive laws that restrict women’s freedoms and that allow impunity for security agents to abuse women under the Popular Discipline Act of the Sudanese security laws in the capital of Sudan. Female activists and human rights defenders have been subject to arrest and tortured for peaceful protests calling for legal reforms and even the simple act of wearing pants.

According to Niemat Ahmadi, the President of Darfur Women Action Group and survivor of the genocide in Darfur, “Women are raped everyday. They are raped during attacks on their villages while fleeing to safe refuge. They are raped in displacement and refugee camps when searching for firewood or water. Women are risking their lives every day because their basic needs are not being met.”

Ms. Ahmadi will brief members of the international community on the many challenges facing women in Sudan, particularly on violence against women in Darfur on March 14, 2013 during a side event during the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations and urge the world not to stand idly as rape and other forms of sexual violence become a norm in the lives of Sudanese women.