There is cause for celebration this Women’s History Month in South Sudan. On February 24, 2023, the President of South Sudan, H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, signed four international conventions into law, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), one of the most advanced treaties on the protection of women’s and girls rights anywhere in the world. The next step in the full ratification of the Maputo Protocol is for South Sudan to deposit the instruments of ratification with the African Union. We hope to celebrate this final step in South Sudan’s decade-long journey to ratification.
The movement toward the ratification of the Maputo Protocol by Africa’s youngest nation is a sign of meaningful progress toward realizing the rights of women and girls in South Sudan
The 5.43 million women and girls in South Sudan face a range of human rights violations rooted in multiple layers of violence and discrimination, including sexual abuse, harassment, intimidation, exclusion, and restrictions of movement, compounded by a lack of access to justice. Around 65% of women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime according to UNICEF, with the most common form being abuse by husbands or partners. For women, customary laws tend to prevail, with rape cases – where reported – handled by community elders. Impunity for perpetrators is also due to a weak legal system consisting of a mixture of formal and customary laws.
An incredible victory for Equality Now and our partner organizations, and women and girls across South Sudan
The recent news is a result of over a decade of advocacy across the women’s movement in South Sudan and beyond. For almost 20 years, Equality Now supported women’s rights organizations under the Solidarity of African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition to advocate for the universal ratification of the Maputo Protocol across Africa. SOAWR member Steward Women and the Coalition of Civil Society on the Ratification of Maputo Protocol in South Sudan have steered the national campaign in South Sudan since 2012.
Initial advocacy efforts Equality Now instigated in 2012 led to the South Sudan parliament passing a motion for the ratification of the Maputo Protocol in 2014. However, what remained was for the government of South Sudan to sign it officially. In 2021, under the YW4A Initiative, Equality Now, in partnership with women’s rights organizations, faith-based partners, and young women advocates, continued to advocate for the rights of women and girls in South Sunan. We engaged with high-level government policymakers, including the Ministry of Gender, Social Welfare, and Religious Affairs, to advocate for the ratification of the Maputo Protocol and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
In 2022, under the YW4A Initiative and the Spotlight Initiative Africa Regional Program, Equality Now convened civil society organizations to create and implement advocacy and movement-building strategies to promote the ratification of the Maputo Protocol. These efforts directly contributed to a June 2022 technical visit to South Sudan by the African Union Commission (AUC) Women Gender and Youth Directorate, a partner in the Spotlight Initiative, to advocate for the ratification of the Maputo Protocol. During the visit, key government officials, including South Sudan’s Vice President H.E. Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, made statements supporting the ratification of all women’s rights treaties on gender equality and women’s rights, including the Maputo Protocol.
The President’s move to officially ratify the Protocol, which involves signing and depositing the instruments of ratification with the African Union’s Office of the Legal Counsel is a welcome step and a hallmark of the government’s commitment to gender equality.
What does this mean for women’s rights in South Sudan?
Ratification of the Maputo Protocol is the first step, but the work continues. Equality Now and our partners look forward to collaborating with the government and civil society to ensure this does change the lived realities of women and girls in South Sudan. We must ensure that all international and regional legal frameworks are realized nationally through policies and strategies.
We look forward to exploring innovative collaborations across sectors in the country.
Together we will make equality reality for women and girls in South Sudan.
This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Maputo Protocol. Make sure you’re following Equality Now on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to be the first to hear about plans for the celebration.
Learn more about the SOAWR Coalition and the Maputo Protocol