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Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Commend South Sudan’s Progressive Legislation for Women, and Ask about Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

Meeting Summaries

 

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today concluded its consideration of the initial report of South Sudan, with Committee Experts commending South Sudan’s progressive legislation for women, and asking for information about efforts to address sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence in the country.

A Committee Expert noted that the constructive dialogue was historic, as it was the first such dialogue South Sudan had engaged in before any treaty body. Another Expert commended South Sudan for its progressive legislation, such as guarantees for protection from early marriage and female genital mutilation. One Expert commended South Sudan on progress made to uphold women’s legal rights, including the establishment of various gender-based violence special protection units in South Sudanese police stations. At the same time, gender stereotypes and harmful practices were widespread. Gender-based violence in conflict settings and out of conflict could not be distinguished, as they reinforced one another. Gender-based violence was supposed to be considered by the special court in Juba, but women could not reach that court from other parts of the country. Did the specialised court for addressing sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls actually exist?

The delegation of South Sudan explained that the specialised court for sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence was launched in December 2020 and was fully operational. Training for judges came as a result of the establishment of the court for sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence. Such cases were a very important area, so professionalisation was critical. A manual for training had been developed for prosecutors. On the larger issue of sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence, the delegation said all special protection units must have a female member to provide psycho-social support as well as take information and help the survivor access services.

Aya Benjamin Libo Warille, Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare of South Sudan and head of the delegation, presenting the report, highlighted that South Sudan had taken measures to end sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence, including through establishing a specialised court within the judiciary to try cases of such violence against women and girls. South Sudan faced numerous challenges related to the conflict setting, and continued to appeal to the international community for support in promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls. The Government reiterated its commitment towards realising the rights of women and girls in South Sudan.

The delegation of South Sudan was made up of representatives of the Council of States; the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare; and the Permanent Mission of South Sudan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eightieth session is being held from 18 October to 12 November. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The meeting summary releases prepared on the public meetings of the Committee can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 5 November to begin its consideration of the fifth periodic report of South Africa (CEDAW/C/ZAF/5).

Report

The Committee has before it the initial report of South Sudan (CEDAW/C/SSD/1).

Introduction of the Report

AYA BENJAMIN LIBO WARILLE, Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare of South Sudan and head of the delegation, presenting the report, said South Sudan had acceded to the Convention and its Optional Protocol in April 2015. In response to the list of issues from the Committee, the Government - among other measures to end sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence - had established 17 special protection units in some police stations and 12 centres offering medical, psycho-social, legal and security services which also enabled survivors to access justice. Mobile courts, also known as special emergency courts, had been established regionally to try cases of sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence, and military justice courts had been established to try cases committed by “organised forces”. A specialised court within the judiciary tried cases of sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls. Training had been provided to police prosecutors and investigators were continuously trained on how to investigate cases; training had also been provided to judges, legal counsel, probation officers and social workers.

The Ministries of Gender and Justice were working to ensure a bill against gender-based violence was passed and approved by the Reconstituted Transitional National Legislative Assembly. In response to a question on the lack of safe homes for sexual and gender-based violence survivors across the country, the Minister said the Government was working to approve draft National Guidelines for the Establishment of Safe Homes.

When it came to the implementation of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan, South Sudan had achieved progress, the Minister said. In the Reconstituted Transitional National Legislative Assembly, 28 per cent of legislators were female. The Council of States was one-quarter female. Women made up a third of members of the East African Legislative Assembly. There were nine female ministers on the Council of Ministers, out of a total of 35 ministers. In the civil service, there were only 4 female undersecretaries out of 35, and the numbers were also low in the independent commissions, and there was only one female governor out of 10 Governors. Following recent appointments, there was a decline in the number of women appointed as ministers, advisors, chairperson of commissions and county commissioners, which was a regressive trend. To engage all parties to commit to their obligations agreed to in the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan, the Government was developing an affirmative action bill with an oversight mechanism to guarantee the implementation of the 35 per cent gender quota in that Agreement and the Constitution.

Turning to security arrangements, the Minister said special training sessions for women in the security sector were ongoing across the country. Consensus had been reached to advocate for gender-sensitive public financial management reforms. The gender advisor to that process was being commissioned by the Government through the support of South Sudan’s development partners. Country-wide consultation and engagement with women at all levels was planned from November 2021 to January 2022, which was expected to result in the development of a bill which in turn would lead to the establishment of a Women and Enterprise Fund. The Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare was proposing to earmark $ 100 million for the Fund, spread over a period of 10 years.

South Sudan had a progressive legal framework on women’s land rights in the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan: the Land Act (2009), the Local Government Act (2009), the Investment Promotion Act (2009) and the draft Land Policy (2014). The challenge lay in the lack of implementation and clear mechanisms for enforcement of those rights. Public consultations would inform the design of the legislation to regulate the establishment of the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing. On the Hybrid Court, the Council of Ministers had approved the legal process developed by the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs that would lead to its establishment. The Government had developed terms of reference for the establishment of a Judicial Reform Committee that would allow parties and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to select respective members to form the committee.

Turning to the process for drafting a permanent Constitution, she said the draft Constitution Bill was tabled at the Council of Ministers and was yet to be passed by the Revitalised Transitional National Legislative Assembly’s preparatory sub-committee. The draft bill provided for 35 per cent women in the drafting committee and the preparatory sub-committee.

In conclusion, the Minister acknowledged that there were numerous challenges in South Sudan related to the conflict setting and continued to appeal to the international community for support in promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls. The Government of the Republic of South Sudan fully appreciated the Committee’s consideration of South Sudan’s report on the implementation of the Convention and reiterated its commitment towards realising the rights of women and girls in South Sudan.

Questions from the Committee Experts

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for South Sudan, welcomed the delegation to this historic constructive dialogue, the first South Sudan had engaged in before any treaty body. It indicated a strong willingness to engage in a process that ensured the human rights of women and recognised them as an indispensable component of development and peace in an inclusive society, as the Convention was both a human rights and development instrument. The Committee saw the promise of a society rebuilt, with immense natural resources, being used safely and sustainably. Women must be an active part of that process, and they could only do that when they were full, equal and active members of society. Women’s voice in human rights was at the base of that advancement. The Members’ questions would shape part of the road map to assist in building the State’s capacity in promoting those rights. The Committee congratulated South Sudan on the historic dialogue.

NICOLE AMELINE, Committee Member, noted that in South Sudan, women were the first victims of conflict, and also the strongest force for peace. Women had to be a part of the legal, political and institutional reconstruction of the country, she said, and asked for information about the position of civil society in the country. The Convention was not well known by the public, something which required a plan of action; was South Sudan ready to disseminate the Convention? Did the specialised court for addressing sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls actually exist?

BANDANA RANA, Committee Member, asked questions about women, peace and security. What was the status of the operational aspect of the Hybrid Court? How would the inclusive and substantive participation of women be ensured in the entire transitional justice programme? Which measures had been put in place to promptly investigate past abductions of women and children, and prevent future cases? Were the United Nations ceasefire monitors and humanitarian partners allowed unrestricted access to all Government and opposition cantonment sites and military bases, where abducted women and girls might be held?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that one of the provisions of the Constitution was that instruments ratified by South Sudan should become an integral part of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. That indicated the importance of the Convention. As for the issue of the visibility of the Convention, a lot of workshops were going on all over the country, and women were beginning to understand that it was an important instrument internationally.

The specialised court for sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence was launched in December 2020 and was fully operational. As for issues of women, peace and security, transitional justice processes were very important, and women needed to participate at all levels. Women bore the brunt of the conflict in South Sudan. A Technical Committee had been established for the process that would lead to legislation, which in turn would lead to the establishment of a Commission for Truth.

Regarding the issue of abduction of women and girls, the Government was working hard in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Children’s Fund to ensure that any women and children abducted could be reunited with their families. Further information, including data on reunited children, would be provided in writing. The women of South Sudan were lucky that the country was undergoing a process for creating a permanent Constitution, as women were actively engaged in identifying gaps.

Questions from the Committee Experts

NICOLE AMELINE, Committee Member, noted that the education and training of judges was absolutely essential, and invited South Sudan to draw up a national training plan for all State officials and judges.

ROSARIO MANALO, Committee Member, asked for clarification as to South Sudan’s plans to eliminate existing legal bases for discrimination. Which plans and programmes aimed to address legislation modifying customs and practices that perpetrated discrimination or resulted in discrimination against women and girls of South Sudan?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that the Constitutional Bill, which would be passed by Parliament, had gender-sensitive provisions. The female legislators in Parliament were highly engaged in that process. The female parliamentary caucus was an important mechanism which would support in monitoring the implementation of the Constitution. Training for judges came as a result of the court for sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence. Such cases were a very important area, so professionalisation was critical. A manual for training had been developed for prosecutors. Regarding plans to address issues of protection, a national action plan for women, peace and security would be based on United Nations Security Council resolution 1325.

The review of the legal framework was ongoing to address cultural practices which contradicted the provisions of laws in South Sudan.

Questions from a Committee Expert

GENOVEVA TISHEVA, Committee Member, congratulated South Sudan on its initial report and asked questions about the national machinery and the advancement of women. What were the policies, strategies and programmes in place to ensure the effective mainstreaming of a gender perspective in all areas and sectors, and to ensure the respective anti-corruption measures? Could the delegation provide information about the implementation of the national gender policy strategic implementation framework? How were women and their non-governmental organizations involved in those processes? Given the challenge of climate change, how would women be included in the national adaptation programme of action?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation noted that ministries of gender worldwide were under-resourced, adding that South Sudan continued to advocate for gender-responsive budgeting. On the issue of the role of women in resource management, the delegation said that after authorities on oil resources were brought together, the Government had declared that a comprehensive national environmental audit was needed. On issues of the environment, there were some challenges, including the negative impact of oil production on communities. Generally, on issues to do with climate change, women were an important part of the remedies and plans to address those issues. Recently, some awareness campaigns had been taking place, as South Sudan was seriously affected by floods, and women and children were particularly affected.

Questions from a Committee Expert

FRANCELINE TOE BOUDA, Committee Member, joined her colleagues in extending a warm welcome to the delegation to the constructive dialogue. South Sudan was young, with almost three quarters of the population under the age of 30. A National Action Plan aimed to promote women’s participation in peace and security efforts, she noted, and asked if South Sudan planned to introduce temporary special measures at all decision-making levels?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said temporary measures toward de facto equality between women and men included the Constitutional provision of 35 per cent of women. The Education Act provided for special measures boosting girls’ education. Having an affirmative action law to promote women’s participation at all levels was crucial, as was as an oversight mechanism.

Follow-up Questions from the Committee Experts

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Member, asked for more information about the institutions managing oil resources, and women’s representation in those institutions.

RHODA REDDOCK, Committee Member, asked whether a specific reference to women and girls was included in the terms of reference for the environmental audit.

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said that the environmental audit was an ongoing process, noting that the impact on women and girls of oil production was significant.

Questions from a Committee Expert

GENOVEVA TISHEVA, Committee Member, commended South Sudan for its progressive legislation, such as guarantees for protection from early marriage and female genital mutilation. The draft of the anti-gender-based violence bill was yet to be presented to Parliament, she noted. Gender stereotypes and harmful practices were widespread. Gender-based violence in conflict settings and out of conflict could not be distinguished, as they reinforced one another. Parallel systems of law and practices must be dealt with. How did South Sudan intend to implement a comprehensive strategy to eliminate discriminatory gender stereotypes? What steps were planned to eliminate child and early marriages? Gender-based violence was supposed to be considered by the special court in Juba, but women could not reach that court from other parts of the country; how would all the women impacted by violence be encompassed? Would marital rape be criminalised?

On gender-based violence, was there data on its scope? What resources were allocated for the collection of such data, as well as mechanisms for the prevention of violence? When would more women be employed in the State national police?

Responses from the Delegation

Concerning the issue of female genital mutilation, the delegation said that the practice was not commonly seen as it was not really part and parcel of South Sudan’s culture. On the issue of child marriage, it could exist, as it was associated with cultural norms. A roadmap to end child marriage existed, and ongoing country-wide awareness-raising campaigns disseminated information against child marriage.

On the larger issue of sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence, the delegation said all special protection units must have a female member to provide psycho-social support as well as take down information and help the survivor access services. On women outside Juba’s ability reach services, special protection units also existed in other parts of the country. There was continuous training for police personnel, including in cooperation with Interpol.

On the issue of concrete measures taken against gender-related stereotypes, South Sudan had conducted training in Juba for chiefs from all its states on ending child marriage. They had made a commitment to ensuring that children under the age of 18 would no longer be forced into marriage. South Sudan was well aware of the problems caused by parallel law systems. Eliminating discriminatory practices was an ongoing process. In terms of ending stereotypes in education, an important initiative was establishing sports teams in schools, which had worked very well.

Follow-up Questions from the Committee Experts

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Member, said the issue of the plural legal system had been prominent during the dialogue. What was hampering the actualisation of a law research centre in Rumbek? Addressing the issue of trafficking, Ms. Gbedemah asked how South Sudan intended to build the capacity of judicial authorities to conduct investigations into trafficking? What were the timelines for ratifying international protocols against trafficking? As for the issue of prostitution, which programmes were in place for the exit, rehabilitation and reintegration processes?

GENOVEVA TISHEVA, Committee Member, said that when South Sudan said the ban on marital rape would be regulated in the anti-gender-based violence law, the Penal Code should also be changed. Harmful stereotypes and practices persisted after the adoption of laws, she noted, and it was important in the meantime to take all measures necessary.

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said that on the matter of trafficking and smuggling of persons, a ministerial order had been issued to establish a task force to combat trafficking. Since then, a series of programmes had been ongoing, and communities’ awareness had been raised about the issue of trafficking. Communities had been unaware that the recruitment of children amounted to trafficking in persons. The national task force would learn good practices from neighbouring countries on how they tackled trafficking in persons. The ratification of the Palermo Protocol was an ongoing process.

Questions from a Committee Expert

LIA NADARAIA, Committee Member, congratulated South Sudan on submitting its initial report to the Committee, and asked about the representation of women in political and public life. How did South Sudan plan to ensure women’s equal participation in security sector reform processes, encouraging more women in the security sector? What were policies for the promotion of women in the judiciary and other sectors? Which steps were planned to protect women’s rights to freedom of expression and opinion, and ensure the secure work of women’s human rights defenders? How did South Sudan plan to promote women in diplomacy?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation agreed that women’s participation was crucial, not just as a matter of human rights, but also as a concern to advance and enhance the transformation that South Sudan aspired to as a nation. The National Election Act provided for women’s participation, and women could participate through party lists as well as through geographic lists. Disaggregated data was needed to track women’s participation in public and political life in order to ensure it was sustained. Women were poorly represented in civil service, and without that, their participation at 35 per cent would not be sustained. Women’s participation at higher levels of education also needed to be tracked. In the area of diplomacy, there were low levels of representation at the leadership levels. A programme of civil service reform should look into how to sustain the 35 per cent level of women’s participation. Women’s human rights defenders were supported, as they were advocates for women and girls’ equality in South Sudan.

Follow-up Questions from a Committee Expert

ROSARIO MANALO, Committee Member, asked about new forms of sexual exploitation such as sex tourism, the recruitment of domestic labour from developing to developed countries, and organised marriages which exploited women. What programmes did South Sudan have in place to minimise the exploitation of women under those three scenarios?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that the trend of trafficking and cross-border smuggling was a new trend for South Sudan. As the Palermo Protocol was not yet ratified, there was no legislation that could prosecute anyone in that area, which was why the National Task Force was working closely with the International Organization for Migration. All decision-making personnel would be brought on board to ensure every person entering the country was scrutinised. South Sudan bordered seven countries.

Questions from a Committee Expert

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Member, focused on questions regarding nationality. There were discriminatory nationality laws as provisions did not apply equally to men and women. Women were required to provide male witnesses to prove their nationality. What was the extent of statelessness in South Sudan? Which measures were being taken to prevent it, and collect data on it? It was important to ensure that birth certificates were issued.

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said the questions were on a very important area, noting that despite progressive legislation, implementation remained challenging. An action plan needed to be developed to ensure that the provisions of the law were implemented to the letter. Data had not been gathered on statelessness, so the Committee was invited to recommend it among its concluding observations to enable the country to act on the issue. A lack of birth certificates had led to a lack of proof in cases where children were victims of crimes, where it was necessary to prove their age. Concluding observations could help South Sudan move forward on that agenda item.

Questions from a Committee Expert

NAHLA HAIDAR, Committee Vice-Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the open and frank dialogue, and addressed the topic of education. A disproportionately high level of illiteracy in South Sudan was the starting point for persistent difficulties. According to the Committee’s information, three-quarters of girls were out of school. The Committee’s illiteracy rate statistics were from 2012; did the delegation have more updated figures? There was military use of, and attacks on schools and hospitals; would that be criminalised? Were measures in place for sexuality education? Was South Sudan considering adult literacy programmes?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that a programme for girls’ education covering the whole country had had a positive impact, enabling girls to return to the classroom. The programme also supported families. Since it kept girls in school, it had improved their school performance, leading to girls outnumbering boys in sitting for exams as well as their results. In one state of the country, girls were able to come back to the classroom because their peer group informed them about the programme. Comprehensive sexuality education needed to be integrated into curricula, but sexuality education was already happening in schools.

On the issue of the occupation of schools, a comprehensive action plan had established committees, which had led to awareness-raising among the “organised forces”.

Follow-up Questions from the Committee Experts

ROSARIO MANALO, Committee Member, asked whether students were separated by tracks, and whether girls were encouraged to pursue traditionally male studies? If so, how?

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Member, thanked the delegation for their open and comprehensive response to questions and asked about impact assessments for the programmes that the delegation had outlined. Were special temporary measures being considered to close the gap between illiteracy rates for males and females?

NAHLA HAIDAR, Committee Vice-Chairperson, appreciated the detail of the information the delegation was providing. Were there figures available for the 2020-2021 budget for the sector of education?

Responses from the Delegation

In response to a question on promoting girls’ education, the delegation said that a programme funded by the United Kingdom had increased the enrolment rate and the rate of girls’ return to school, and reduced dropout rates. A grant supporting teachers in schools was also helping teachers remain in the educational system rather than look for work in better-paid sectors.

Questions from a Committee Expert

RHODA REDDOCK, Committee Member, asked for information about the actual implementation of the provisions of the Labour Act such as equal pay for equal work, the maternity and paternity provisions, and to what extent there was public and private sector compliance? What measures had been implemented to improve women’s access to formal employment? What systems were in place to sensitise workers and employers and to monitor and prevent sexual harassment, as well as to encourage victims to safely file complaints against perpetrators?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said many men had not known there were paternity provisions for them in the Labour Act. In the public sector, a mapping tool looked into issues of employment in general. In the private sector, someone who went for a long maternity leave would lose their jobs. The authorities were exploring how to ensure women working in the private sector enjoyed the protections of the Labour Act. Gender-based discrimination, sexual exploitation and harassment were key issues affecting women in public administration, and South Sudan was looking into developing a sexual harassment policy for that sector.

Questions from the Committee Experts

RHODA REDDOCK, Committee Member, noted that it was important to look at the value of a job, and not just say that men and women got the same pay. There could be many jobs which were lower paid because they were held by women, and therefore seen as less valuable.

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Member, asked for information about which subjects women in vocational education were studying.

LOUIZA CHALAL, Committee Member, welcomed the delegation and said the Committee was pleased to conduct the interesting dialogue with the State party. She noted that much of the population did not have access to basic health care, and asked whether the budget for providing healthcare might be increased? Which preventive measures would be taken against the health problem of obstetric fistula? Access to contraceptives was very important, she noted. What efforts had been made to ensure that abortion was available in cases of rape? Would South Sudan ratify the Maputo Protocol?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said there were regional disparities in terms of health facilities and health personnel on the ground. South Sudan used to have the world’s highest maternal maternity rate, and while it had gone down, it was still high compared to other countries. Training midwives and raising awareness about ante-natal healthcare services were some preventive measures against maternal mortality which had been taken. Family planning and contraceptives were very important, but women’s access to them was limited. A national HIV/AIDS strategy looked into issues of infections, mother to child transmission, and how survivors could be provided with anti-retroviral drugs. One positive trend was that people were more open to being tested. On the Maputo Protocol, preparatory processes to ratification had already been completed, and Parliament had approved the instrument of ratification.

The Ministry of Health was working hard to address the issue of obstetric fistula, with free operations offered to women suffering from that health condition. Midwives were being trained with the support of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund.

Follow-up Questions from the Committee Experts

LOUIZA CHALAL, Committee Member, asked whether abortion was authorised in cases of rape?

HILARY GBEDEMAH, Committee Member, asked how much of the maternal mortality was attributable to abortion, including unsafe abortions?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said abortion was not legal in South Sudan.

Questions from a Committee Expert

MARION BETHEL, Committee Member, commended South Sudan for establishing the Social Protection Policy Framework in 2015 in recognition of the high levels of poverty across the country, noting that it envisaged a national social protection system with strong coordination and a range of social protection programmes for the most vulnerable. As women and girls were among the most vulnerable in South Sudan, did the policy specify and elaborate a specific gender component? Which social security benefits were available to women in the informal economy, especially internally displaced women?

Noting that recreation and leisure activities were a right under the Convention, she congratulated South Sudan on the success of its women’s football team, adding that it was noteworthy that the Government itself considered sports to be a tool for promoting peace in South Sudan. The Committee would love to hear the delegation’s response to the new day for women’s football in South Sudan and about the potential it offered for women’s socio-economic empowerment.

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said women were encouraged to join sport activities, and thanked the Committee for noting that important activity. Turning to the subject of social protection, a social safety net and skills development project had been implemented with the help of the World Bank. The village savings and loans schemes had worked very well on the ground, where women came together and contributed to community pools of money. A Women’s Enterprise Fund had learned from the Kenyan, Indian and Bangladesh models of how such funds functioned in those countries. The fund would look into micro-, medium- and large-scale enterprises. Early next year, legislation was envisaged to be enacted toward operationalising that Fund. South Sudan had poor infrastructure, she noted, so linking women through infrastructure development was also a focus of ongoing discussion.

Questions from the Committee Experts

FRANCELINE TOE BOUDA, Committee Member, asked whether South Sudan would increase the budget for gender issues using oil revenues? Were there statistics available on women who owned land? Were women in rural areas given information about the Convention and its Optional Protocol? As for the COVID-19 pandemic, could the delegation explain what measures had been taken against the pandemic?

ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Vice-Chairperson, asked whether women with disabilities had been included in all the efforts of South Sudan? The situation of women with disabilities was quite serious. How was the number of women with disabilities who were deprived of liberty monitored? What was being done to help women with disabilities to be able to stay in their communities, with their families?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that although South Sudan had not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a lot of its components had already been integrated into policy. Women with disabilities were able to access education, including higher education.

Women with disabilities had formed networks and organizations, as well as a union. It was working closely with the authorities in terms of promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.

The majority of South Sudan’s population was rural, and the majority of the rural population were women. The rate of poverty was very high among those women, so there was a feminisation of poverty in South Sudan. In terms of strengthening basic services for rural women, a health initiative aimed to provide reproductive health services. The International Day of Rural Women was celebrated annually in South Sudan. In rural areas, land was accessible for use by women, but they did not own it.

Questions from the Committee Experts

ANA PELAEZ NARVAEZ, Committee Vice-Chairperson, asked for data on the number of women with disabilities who had been detained for motives related to their disability. Could the delegation give a guarantee that that practice would end?

NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA, Committee Member, commended South Sudan on progress made to uphold women’s legal rights, including the establishment of various gender-based violence special protection units in South Sudanese police stations. Noting that South Sudan had a moratorium on the death penalty, could the delegation provide data about women sentenced to death or executed since the ratification of the Convention? Would South Sudan abolish the death penalty, and replace it with a penalty that was fair, proportionate, and consistent with international human rights standards? Would South Sudan adopt provisions to ensure customary courts were not authorised to sentence people to death?

ARUNA DEVI NARAIN, Committee Rapporteur, asked what was being done to eliminate customary practices which adversely impacted on the enjoyment of women’s rights to equality in marriage and family relations? Information about work against child marriage, and the situation around inheritance, was also requested.

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation explained that a strategic national action plan against child marriage had envisioned minimising that practice within a certain time frame. The work was a collaborative effort between the Government and development partners. On issues of Muslim women and their rights, there was no discrimination against any women in terms of ethnic group, religion or status. All provisions in legislation applied equally.

Customary courts in South Sudan did not have the authority to sentence people to death. The existence of parallel legal systems compromised women’s access to justice, and the absence of a family law had created issues for women’s rights, including inheritance and access to land.

Concluding Remarks

AYA BENJAMIN LIBO WARILLE, Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare of South Sudan and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee on behalf of the delegation and the Government of South Sudan. The discussion had been very productive, and members of the delegation had learned a great deal from it. South Sudan might have nice plans, but without peace in the country, progress would not be possible. South Sudan was working hard to move to the next level.

GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, saying it had really given the Committee an opportunity to fully understand the situation of women and girls in South Sudan. The Committee looked forward to receiving South Sudan’s next periodic report.

 

 

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CEDAW21.020E