Scores of women raped in surge of sex­ual vi­o­lence

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - WORLD - By Sam Mednick Sam Mednick is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

JUBA, South Su­dan — As many as 125 women and girls have been raped, whipped and clubbed in at­tacks so shock­ing that aid work­ers in South Su­dan say they are left speech­less.

Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders on Satur­day said the “dra­matic in­crease” in sex­ual vi­o­lence oc­curred over 10 days, be­tween Nov. 19 and Thurs­day, as the women and girls walked to a food dis­tri­bu­tion site in Ben­tiu in Unity state. By con­trast, the med­i­cal char­ity’s Ben­tiu clinic treated 104 sur­vivors of sex­ual as­sault in the first 10 months of this year.

Sex­ual vi­o­lence has been wide­spread in South Su­dan’s civil war, and even un­der a re­cent peace deal hu­man­i­tar­i­ans have warned of higher rates of sex­ual as­sault as growing num­bers of des­per­ate peo­ple try to reach aid.

A mid­wife with Doc­tors With­out Bor­ders who treated some of the sur­vivors said those tar­geted in­clude preg­nant and el­derly women and girls as young as 10.

“What is hap­pen­ing since last week is in­de­scrib­able. I haven’t got words for it,” Ruth Okello told the As­so­ci­ated Press. The women were robbed of cloth­ing and shoes, and even their ra­tion cards for food dis­tri­bu­tion were seized and de­stroyed, the aid group said.

The U.N. mis­sion chief, David Shearer, said the “ab­hor­rent” at­tacks were car­ried out by young men in mil­i­tary uni­forms and civil­ian cloth­ing. The United Na­tions has in­creased pa­trols in the area and launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion while urg­ing lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to hold the at­tack­ers ac­count­able.

South Su­dan’s gov­ern­ment did not im­me­di­ately com­ment.

The in­ter­na­tional body charged with mon­i­tor­ing the peace deal’s im­ple­men­ta­tion said Satur­day it has opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the re­ports.

The United Na­tions’ World Food Pro­gram said that while there was a dis­tri­bu­tion un­der way in Ben­tiu for dis­placed peo­ple, the women and girls weren’t due to re­ceive food as­sis­tance un­til the fol­low­ing week. WFP said it was look­ing into whether it can move dis­tri­bu­tion sites closer to com­mu­ni­ties in the area.

A new re­port by the U.N. panel of ex­perts mon­i­tor­ing sanc­tions on South Su­dan says it re­mains “ex­tremely concerned” about the con­tin­ued high level of con­flict-re­lated sex­ual vi­o­lence, de­spite the peace deal signed in Septem­ber.

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