Rights group demands ratification of Maputo Protocol

Rights group demands ratification of Maputo Protocol
Women from more than forty South Sudanese womens organizations carry placards as march through the city to express the frustration and suffering that women and children face in Juba, South Sudan on December 9, 2017. – Almost 1000 protesters participated, most of them covering their mouths with tape, as part of a 16 day activity with the theme “End The War”. (Photo by STEFANIE GLINSKI / AFP)

A rights group is demanding that South Sudan ratify the Maputo Protocol to protect young girls and women from sexual and gender-based violence.

On Thursday, a six-year-old girl was molested to death by a Sudanese trader in Aweil town of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State. This is the latest sexual abuse being reported in the country. 

Several rights groups, comprising the Centre for Peace and Advocacy (CPA), Equality Now, and Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR), are now urging the parliament to ratify the treaty to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, better known as the Maputo Protocol, is an international human rights instrument established by the African Union that went into effect in 2005.

The Centre for Peace and Advocacy (CPA), indicated that women and girls in conflict zones continue to be abducted and sexually abused.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights last month released a report highlighting widespread sexual violence against women and girls in the South Sudan conflict, fuelled by systematic impunity. 

It says widespread rape is being perpetrated by armed groups.

“It is outrageous and completely unacceptable that women’s bodies are systematically used on this scale as the spoils of war. “Urgent and demonstrable action by authorities is long overdue, and South Sudanese men must stop regarding the female body as’ territory ‘to be owned, controlled and exploited,” said Yasmin Sooka, chair of the UN Commission.

The UN Commission called on the authorities to take the necessary steps to stop sexual violence against women and girls, by addressing impunity and the drivers of conflict and insecurity.

Half of all South Sudanese women are married off while under 18, and the country has the highest maternal mortality rate globally.

Last year, a Pan-African organization initiated a campaign to make the remaining 13 African Union member states accede to the Maputo Protocol.

African leaders reaffirmed their commitment to protecting, promoting, and fulfilling African women’s rights at an AU Assembly in Maputo, Mozambique. 

The petition, dated November 25, 2021, was signed by 36 rights organizations that make up the SOAWR Coalition.

Countries that have yet to ratify the protocol include Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Madagascar, Morocco, Niger, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan.