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South Sudanese rally for peace and end to sexual violence

March 8, 2018 (JUBA) - South Sudan on Thursday joined the rest of the world to commemorate the International Women’s Day with calls for peace, an end to gender-based violence, sexual abuse and all forms of discrimination against women in the young nation.

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The UN says at least one million people, mostly women and children, are displaced and in dire conditions in South Sudan in the aftermath of the mid-December violence (Photo: Michael Arunga/World Vision)

An event, held in the national capital, Juba saw hundreds of women peacefully march with placards in support of women.

The South Sudanese minister for Gender and Social Welfare, Awut Deng Achuil, said women make up over 60 percent of the country’s population, but they continue to bear the brunt of violence from armed groups, sexual violence and child marriage.

"It is sad that our girls are booked for marriage when they are three years old. It is too much to bear. Time is now to take action to change the lives of women through silencing the guns," she said.

The minister called for investment in women’s programs, saying it would help empower women, considered the most marginalized.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is persistent and a serious problem in the war-torn nation as 98% of GBV incidents reported in South Sudan in 2016 affected women and girls, the United Nation said.

GBV, it says, includes rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, forced and early marriages, affecting women, girls, boys and men.

Meanwhile, the head of the UN mission in South Sudan, David Shearer urged government and development partners to invest more in women empowerment initiatives for realization of gender equality and socioeconomic progress for women in South Sudan.

"This day is about women and girls, but is it also about peace. It is a chance to challenge ourselves to find other ways to transform their lives of women and girls in South Sudan and across the world," he said.

Thousands of South Sudanese women and girls, and some men, who have been raped in ethnically-charged sexual attacks in the ongoing conflict are battling mental distress and stigma with nowhere to turn for help, Amnesty International said in a report released in July last year.

The report, entitled, “Do not remain silent”: Survivors of Sexual violence in South Sudan call for justice and reparations, reveals aggravated acts of sexual violence against thousands of people across the country since conflict began in December 2013.

(ST)