Ending violence against girls & women requires the sustained efforts of all
Power Relations and Violence
Gender equality is achieved when women and men, girls and boys, have equal rights, life prospects, and opportunities, and the power to shape their own lives and contribute to society.
The opposite of this – gender inequality, unequal power relations and discrimination based on gender – is the root of gender-based violence.
This violence is also the main obstacle to the achievement of gender equality: unequal power relations are upheld through gender-based violence.
We define gender-based violence as any harm or suffering that is perpetrated against a woman or girl, man or boy and that has a negative impact on the physical, sexual or psychological health, development or identity of the person. The cause of the violence is founded in gender-based power inequalities and gender-based discrimination.
Women in war zones undergo acts of violence that result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, both in public and in private life.
This manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.
GBV against women and girls is linked to gender inequalities and gender norms according to which the ‘female’ and the ‘feminine’ is associated with weakness, inferiority, and victimization.
GBV against men and boys often builds on different norms for masculinity and femininity. For instance, men and boys who are subject to GBV can be punished for not being ‘real’ men, not complying with social expectations on manhood and masculinity norms, for example as gay, trans, bisexual and/or being identified as belonging to a low-status masculinity identity.
While gender inequality, unequal power relations, and discrimination based on gender are the overarching causes of GBV, and this violence is not limited to specific regions or socioeconomic, religious, or ethnic groups but occur everywhere5, the interplay between other causes and contributing factors influences the prevalence of GBV. These factors may include normalization of violence in the wake of armed conflict, an ineffective criminal justice system,
A structure in a medical compound in the Nuba mountains damaged by a bomb dropped on their location.
Conflict-Related Sexual Violence
Sexual violence by non-partners in war zones includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape, and gang rape.
Gang rape is a violent crime in which various men use sexualized acts to intentionally harm and hurt mostly women and girls, but also men and boys are victims.
When violence, in general, is more present in a society and in situations of increased militarization, subordinated groups in the society become more vulnerable in public arenas as well as in private. Displacement and heightened tensions within communities and households exacerbate the risk of gender-based violence, including men’s violence against their intimate partners and other forms of violence in the family.
Poor welfare services and the break- down of social networks and justice systems make it more difficult for victims of violence to escape, and leave the perpetrators unpunished.
In times of crisis, traditional gender norms are often emphasized, increasing the chances of being violated on the basis of gender.
These acts are expressions of misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, homophonic norms that produce and reproduce socialization processes that victimize and devalue women and femininity, and high levels of economic poverty, unemployment, social exclusion, and marginalization seem to increase the violence.
We have been one of the key actors in addressing sexualized violence against women and girls in war zones through various local initiatives.
No Control, No Choice
Lack of Access to Reproductive Healthcare in Southern Kordofan
Four years ago, after 14-year-old Hassina Soulyman spent two days in labor at home, weak from loss of blood and falling in and out of consciousness, her family knew something was terribly wrong.
They set her on a motorcycle—the only transport in her village—with two men holding her between them for a two-hour ride to a larger village. There they waited hours for a car to take her to one of only two hospitals in the rebel-held areas of Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state.
When they finally got her there, a doctor delivered her stillborn baby by cesarean section and told Hassina that her cervix was too narrow to give birth vaginally.
Without adequate health information or access to contraception, Hassina became pregnant two more times. Her second baby was delivered at the hospital but died before reaching six months.
During the last weeks of her third pregnancy, when she was 18, Hassina and her family fled her village to escape aerial bombing by the Sudanese government. She went into labor in the riverbed where her family was sheltering and endured three days of obstructed labor, during which the body of the baby cleared the birth canal but the separated head was stuck in her womb before she could get transport to a hospital for medical assistance. She survived another operation, but as of December 2016, when Human Rights Watch met her, Hassina still did not have access to family planning assistance.
Women and girls living in rebel-held areas of the Nuba Mountains of Southern Kordofan, Sudan have little or no access to contraception, adequate antenatal care, or emergency obstetric care—leaving them unable to control the number and spacing of their children, and exposing them to serious health complications and sometimes death.
Healthcare access was low in the four areas currently under the control of rebels– and worse than in other parts of Sudan because of marginalization by Sudan’s government and earlier conflicts— even before the current war began in 2011. The poor humanitarian situation there cannot be entirely blamed on the conflict. However, unlawful government bombardment, destruction of clinics including by bombing, poor distribution of medicines, and hard-to-cross frontlines have all further reduced access.
Lack of Healthcare Access
A United Nations-led humanitarian aid effort to improve the humanitarian situation has not been put in place.
Both parties to the conflict have failed to agree on a joint modality for a sustained humanitarian effort, despite 15 rounds of African Union-moderated talks over six years, and many proposals and other efforts by UN officials and diplomats.
Hundreds of thousands of people live in the rebel-controlled areas without the health services, food aid, and other basic assistance that a full UN-coordinated humanitarian response would attempt to provide.
Humanitarian aid workers in the area are concerned that civilians in some areas may now be facing the worst food shortages since 2011 and 2012 when food shortages contributed to massive displacement and people reportedly died of hunger.
While civilians living in Southern Kordofan, especially in the rebel-held areas, face a myriad of human rights abuses, this project focuses on limited access for women and girls to sexual and reproductive healthcare.
We hope that highlighting this issue will draw the attention of the Sudanese government, SPLM/A-North, and the international community to this particularly neglected aspect of humanitarian needs in the area, as many years of negotiations and various efforts by diplomats, the African Union (AU) and the UN have all failed to provide humanitarians with unfettered access to communities in war zones.
Your support provides opportunities for vulnerable women and young people in war zones and other vulnerable victims of injustice to access clean water as well as hygiene and sanitation programs.
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