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Clinic Students Urge Justice for Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in Southern Sudan

We discovered that years of violent conflict, a lack of resources, and a weak legal system have allowed men in southern Sudan, including soldiers and government officers, to attack, rape, and kill women without punishment, and that more surprisingly, women and children have actually recently been targeted in attacks. –Karen Kudelko ’10 

The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School recently completed a study of gender-based violence in southern Sudan. Partnering with the Enough Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that campaigns against genocide, the clinic spent nearly a year and a half researching the extent of gender-based violence in the region and analyzing the ability of survivors to secure justice. Clinic students Chelsea Purvis ’11, Caroline Gross ’10, and Karen Kudelko ’10 wrote the study during the 2009-2010 academic year, under the supervision of clinic director Professor James Silk ’89.

“The time to explore the issue was just right,” said Kudelko. “Sudan was soon to be facing elections, and the South would be holding a referendum on secession in 2011. Therefore, there was bound to be a reexamination of the laws and structures within the country.” 

Released Jan. 24, the study concludes that gender-based violence is prevalent in southern Sudan and that survivors face multiple obstacles to obtaining justice--barriers that are cultural, legal, and systemic. It asserts that Sudanese authorities and the international community have failed to protect women and children from rape, assault, abduction, human trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence, and it offers recommendations on how the United States and others can help prevent these kinds of crimes and hold perpetrators accountable.

“Among other things, we encourage the U.N. Security Council to fully implement or strengthen resolutions that protect survivors of sexual violence, and we urge the United States to make GBV a focus of its policy in southern Sudan and treat GBV issues as critical aspects of efforts to improve peace and security in Sudan,” said Purvis.

The study also calls upon the governments of Sudan and southern Sudan to reform law and policy toward GBV and to support survivors, and it asks international and domestic donors and investors to provide funding, personnel, and infrastructure aimed at helping women attain justice.

Students in the Lowenstein Clinic, which takes on a wide variety of human rights projects each semester, say they are honored to have worked on this one.

“Knowing I have contributed to something that will hopefully change the shape of how survivors seek help in southern Sudan makes me very proud of the work we have done,” said Kudelko, “but it cannot end there. We need to follow through and make sure our study is understood and that the laws and policies of southern Sudan are changed to provide survivors with proper access to justice.”

You may read the study and its recommendations here on the Enoughproject.org website.