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2013 | South Sudan Law Society - Challenges of accountability. An assessment of dispute resolution processes in rural South Sudan.

South Sudan has struggled to establish fair and effective governance and rule of law institutions. In recent years, prosecutors and magistrates have been deployed to some rural areas. State legal advisers and judiciaries have begun to monitor customary courts and encourage chiefs to adhere to jurisdictional limitations. According to the SSLS fundamental problems of accountability remain, despite gradual reforms. South Sudan has not yet established a justice system that affords predictable and reliable legal protection for the poor and marginalized and meets the basic requirements for justice for its people.

This report shows that the local justice system discriminates against women and children; statutory prohibitions on forced marriage are not enforcement, families use courts to pressure women into marrying their rapists, domestic violence is rarely prosecuted and retaliation to abusive husbands is punished with harsh prison sentences.

After an introductory chapter on the landscape of justice in South Sudan, which shows the legal pluralism and challenges to expanding government authority in the rural areas, the report discusses in chapter three paragraph six the patriarchal context that defines rape in South Sudan. Rape in a marriage isn’t punishable and there is no minimum age for sexual consent among married couples. Furthermore, customary courts sometimes force girls to marry their rapist. The response to the sexual violence will be partly based on the bride wealth value and the social relations at stake. The report also refers to sexual violence in conflict. Although violence against women and children is prohibited in the traditional rules of war, sexual violence has become far more pronounced. Surprisingly the number of reported incidents is rather low, which the report contributes to the stigma that surrounds rape.

To eliminate these discriminatory practices the SLSS recommends to the government that a gender-based violence act is developed to establish and strengthen mechanisms that can protect women and girls from violence. The SLSS also recommends to attorneys and state prosecutors to support victims of sexual assualt by filing cases against their perpetrators.