Gendered violence in Juba

South Sudanese women in Juba. Photo:

By Professor Simon E. Kulusika

February 6, 2017 (SSNA) — Before explaining the meaning of the title of this article, it may help the reader in understanding what will be said later to know the person who is the writer of the article. Where he was born, the Kumam people of Soroti District of Uganda, knew him as Halai Yassin Abdul Rahman Voga.  But the spelling of the first name was changed on several occasions depending on how one pronounced it.  On admission to the University of Khartoum, where he studied law, despite the protestation of late Joseph Kebulu who wanted him to study engineering, he was known as Simon El Hag Kulusika. He is a ghost son, his father was called Yassin Loku. The father was born a Muslim, implying also that his son was born a Muslim, but the son was baptized in 1953 under Roman Catholic Rites; for that, any dedicated Muslim would condemn him as an Apostate. Until that horrified moment, as it befell Salman Rushddi, comes he remains free not in hiding.  Many Ma’di people have names, such as Surrur, Ghafir, Suliman, Selim, Ibrahim, etc, due to the influences of slave – traders, Turkish, and Mahdist administration. Over the years, he has done a lot of researches on South Sudan and the people of that land, criminal law, the conflict of laws, international human rights law, international terrorism and constitutional interpretation. This article is written with an informed background in human rights.

There are ripe and disturbing rumours reaching South Sudanese in countries around the world regarding incidents of brutal gendered violence occurring within several households in Juba and other cities in South Sudan. The frequency and the savagery of the incidents of gendered violence have attracted the attention of people in Juba, but there are no visible or serious responses from law enforcement agencies to deal with the violence which is in most cases directed against women and girls. The failure of state agencies to respond to gendered violence may be attributed to lack of reporting of incidents of violence against women and girls, as such incidents have been viewed as private family matters to be dealt with by the family or relatives of the parties to the violence or, in extreme cases, the opinion of the KAKA (Ma’di term for community called to resolve intricate familial issues) may be sought.

Gendered violence as used in this article is meant to encompass violence directed against a woman or a girl or a man because of that person’s gender. The violence in most cases occurs within the household, but it can also occur in the workplace, hospital, school or other public places. The majority of victims of GBV are women and girls. In contemporary terms, these types of violence are referred to as GERNDER-BASED VIOLENCE (GBV). Examples: psychological and emotional violence, such as, insults (Nyi otce: you are a dog), ‘I don’t love you’, ‘you the daughter of a Witch’, chasing the woman from the house, refusing to eat food in the house because the man does not trust the woman, the man shaking his fist angrily in the face of the woman in the presence of children, or the woman telling the man that he was forced on her by her father, that X is better than him because he (the husband) does not satisfy her, or the man is a laggard, such words are demeaning and painful, can lead to tragic GBV. Social violence: preventing the woman to socialize with other women on the pretext that she would be influenced by them, preventing the woman from visiting her relatives unless in his company. Economic violence: preventing the woman from working, preventing the woman from owning any property, even the cash she earned from selling roasted groundnuts or Legemat is taken away from her for the man to use for buying a hard drink.

Physical violence: slapping, throwing the woman violently on the ground, punching, whipping, flogging, kicking and like acts which are harmful. In one terrifying incident, a man inflicted serious injuries on the thigh of his wife with a hot iron, accusing her of having affairs with other men. Men and women should avoid these bad conducts in order to live in harmony in their matrimonial homes. People do differ, but differences should be controlled and managed mutually.

The international community has condemned GBV in the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Violence against Women (DEVAW), 1993, which makes the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), 1979 to include GBV as a form of discrimination subject to prosecution. DEVAW is a declaratory instrument and cannot be enforced, but can be invoked as evidence that GBV should not be condoned. In contrast, CEDAW is enforceable under criminal jurisdictions of all parties to the Convention.  Women groups in South Sudan must insist that CEDAW is observed and all its provisions are implemented in South Sudan.

Based on the two international instruments, many countries have criminalized GBV, ie, they have put in place legislation to punish Gender – Based Violence under different appellations, Violent Crime Act, eg, England and South Africa. Anti – Gender – Based Violence Act, eg Zambia. The Zambian Act is more progressive as it provides protections for victims of GBV by establishing a Committee to monitor the implementation of laws against gender-based violence, it provides for the establishment of Shelters for victims and survivors of GBV and provides for the establishment of a Fund to provide assistance to victims and survivors of GBV. The Government of South Sudan (GOSS) should enact similar legislation to punish GBV with the primary goal of eradicating the scourge.

The elimination of GBV cannot be done by the GOSS alone. People must unite and act together to fight GBV. This can be done and achieved in three different ways. First, women should act together to change their attitude and perception of violence against women. Women groups should make it clear to fellow women that GBV is destructive to family life. It can result in prolonging disability or even lead to death. The view that if the man does not beat his wife he does not care for her or love her should be abandoned. The violence that hurts does not translate into love. Love is peace, harmony and the absence of agony. This writer recalled a conversation between two women who were on their way to the river. The writer was grazing the herds of his maternal grandfather. One of the women said to the other, I had no sleep last night. My man beat me throughout the night for no reason. Even this morning he told me he would beat me in the evening. ‘I am sad I do not know what to do. I better leave this man: Wululu, Wululu, Iya yo,  Iya yo!’ The other woman advised her not to abandon her children. They were very important assets for the Clan. She added ‘my man is ‘ebwe’, meaning cool or quiet man. That he never beat her, adding that perhaps ‘he does not love me’. This shows how some women view beating within the household. But one thing is clear that is that violence in any setting cannot be a symbol of love. Violence is uncivilized and it must be outlawed.

First, violence, in all its various permutations: physical, social, economic, emotional and psychological must be rejected by all members of the society anywhere in the world. Second, women should tirelessly campaign for gender equality. They should demand equality at home, at work places, at schools and other public and private social and economic institutions. They should insist on equality in the distribution of social welfare benefits, distribution of wealth and equality in the distribution of political power. Third, the community should participate in the prevention and elimination of GBV. This can be achieved through the formation of bodies consisting of women and men to monitor situations where violence is potentially high and to take mediatory measures to avert fighting in the home. The community should urge the government to take legislative measures aimed at curbing, fighting and eliminating GBV. When fighting erupts in any home the community should not take the matter as a family matter and a private one which should not call for the intervention of the community. It should become the norm that GBV is an evil deed and an offence which calls for the intervention of the community and the state in order to eliminate the terror.

It is claimed that the reported cases of GBV in Juba are just the tip of an iceberg. That GBV is rampant among most ethnic groups in the city, with the exception of the Nubi group in the city. It would seem that Islam has had a positive impact on the Nubi Muslim men in their treatment of women. There are specific verses (Aiyat) in Surat AN – Nisa 4 in the Holy Qur’an to that effect. It is also rumoured that certain persons of the Jeru Clan of the Ma’di people are the most notorious in the commission of GBV. Unfortunately, this writer is a Jeru himself, the only consolation is that he is not married to any woman who might have become a victim of GBV. It is hoped that this article will have a positive reformative effect on those Jeru men practicing the abhorrent acts of GBV.

There are no credible research works on GBV and why married people or partners or boy and girl friends fight. But the fact that human beings are aggressive cannot be denied. Some human beings are able to control or even to suppress their anger. Numbers of human beings are able to tolerate provocation to a certain extent before their rage explodes. But many other human beings react violently to the slightest inadvertent remarks. There are others who in fact provoke other persons to give them the pretext to engage in violence whether at home, at workplaces, at schools, in pubs, or other public places. The latter two categories of people are the ones who abuse their wives, partners, girl friends and their children. They are sorrowfully the agents of GBV. They terrorise their family members: day – in day – out in the day to – day expression. If the woman does something which in the ordinary course of daily life could be forgiven, the response from these aggressive men is a slap on the face of the woman followed by a severe beating. If the woman cooked Okra with peanut butter instead of a fried Nile – perch the man gets violent ‘Why do you give me this bad food. I want fried fish with potato chips.’ If the woman tried to explain that there was no money to buy fish, the man gets more furious. He forgets that he did not give the woman enough money to buy fish from the market, or that the price of a piece of Nile – perch has sky – rocketed in the last two weeks. In his day dream, the man thinks that his wife used some money for buying Ira (Merissa) a traditional brew which is nutritious but also intoxicative. This fish dispute leads to horrific GBV sending the woman for admission in hospital. This is sad because the matter could easily be resolved by dialogue not hostile confrontation.

Some women are also to bear the blame for the perpetration of GBV. For example, a man went to work, and a few minutes later, the woman dashed to a tavern to sip some Castle beer. She stayed there for the entire morning. At about 12: 30 hours she returned home empty handed because the money allocated for meat, vegetables, and some fruits was used for buying a hard drink. When the man returned home he was amazed to find the woman deep asleep. He went to the kitchen, looked around, but the stove was cold, an indication that there was no culinary activity that day. When he asked for food, the woman replied: ‘no money for buying food stuff’. This cold reply sent blood into the face of the man resulting in a big GBV. Of course, the ideal solution would be to counsel the woman in order for her to realize the problem she was creating for the family.

In some cases of GBV, both the man and the woman are to be blamed. But in the majority of cases, men are the primary perpetrators. Two real examples will suffice to prove the claim. In England in 1990, a man who abused his wife for ten years was killed by the woman. On the fateful afternoon, the man said to his wife ‘pay the bill or I will hurt you.’ He retired to the bedroom to have a siesta. While asleep, the woman poured some paraffin on the man and fired it. The man was killed. In Zambia in 2016, a man beat his wife after a domestic disagreement. In the early hours of the following day, while the man was asleep, the woman axed the man on the head causing deep cuts from which he died. These two examples can be taken to demonstrate the dangers posed by GBV.

As it has been indicated, violence directed against a woman, a girl or a man because of the person’s gender is technically called GENDER – BASED VIOLENCE (GBV). It is a crime (offence). It is punishable under the criminal laws of all States whether they have in place legislation specifically dealing with it or not. In the latter case, GBV can be dealt with under the Penal Code or Criminal Code of the State concerned. GBV must be eradicated because it is a danger to the family which is the foundation of any nation – state. The State has the responsibility to institute effective measures to prevent, control and punish those who perpetuate GBV. If this article hurts you, there is no apology. The only advice to be given to you is to go for anger management counseling, and pray to your God to liberate you from the evil of GBV. Women and men are born free and equal and must continue to be equal. All must reject GBV.

Simon E. Kulusika is an associate professor of Laws at Zambian Open University.

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