The Plight of Sudanese Women Amidst a Vicious Conflict
Sudanese women have long been at the forefront of movements for democracy and change in their country. In 2019, they played a crucial role in the ousting of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. However, the situation has taken a devastating turn with the outbreak of a vicious war in mid-April. This article sheds light on the plight of Sudanese women who are now bearing the brunt of the conflict, facing displacement, healthcare crises, and a horrifying epidemic of sexual and gender-based violence.
Displacement and Healthcare Crisis
Since the war began, over six million people have been displaced, with an estimated 105,000 pregnant women among them. The United Nations reports that nearly 90% of the 1.2 million refugees who have fled to neighboring countries are women and children. The healthcare system in Sudan is crumbling, with 70 to 80% of hospitals in conflict areas non-operational. This dire situation has severe consequences for women in need of maternal health medicines.
Epidemic of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Sexual and gender-based violence has become rampant in Sudan, with over four million women and girls at risk, according to the World Health Organization. A UN experts’ report accused both parties involved in the conflict of violating humanitarian and human rights law. The report expressed particular concern over the brutal and widespread use of rape and sexual violence by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Some of these acts appeared to be ethnically and racially motivated, reminiscent of the Darfur crisis two decades ago.
War Crimes and Abductions
Human Rights Watch documented a “staggering number of rapes and other war crimes” committed by the RSF during attacks on West Darfur’s capital. The Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa reported numerous cases of women victimized by the RSF, including forced disappearances, kidnappings for ransom, and sexual slavery. The testimonies of survivors paint a harrowing picture of their experiences, with women and girls being held in slave-like conditions, forcibly married, and subjected to ransom demands.
Allegations of External Support
Accusations have surfaced regarding the United Arab Emirates (UAE) supplying arms to the RSF, exacerbating the situation for Sudanese women. Reports suggest that the UAE’s material support for the RSF is an open secret. The international community, including the United States, has called for an end to any involvement in the conflict. The UAE has denied these allegations, but its reputation is at stake if it fails to sever ties with the RSF.
International Responsibility and the Path to Peace
It is crucial for regional and international actors to play a constructive role in bringing peace to Sudan. The world must not turn a blind eye to gross human rights abuses in pursuit of selfish economic and strategic interests. The UAE, in particular, has a responsibility to dissociate itself from the RSF and contribute to the efforts of peace and justice in Sudan. Women’s empowerment is essential for reconciliation and the rebuilding of nations, as seen in Liberia’s experience after war and plunder.
The plight of Sudanese women amidst the ongoing conflict is a grave concern that demands immediate attention. Displacement, healthcare crises, sexual violence, and war crimes have created a dire situation for women in Sudan. The international community, including the UAE, must take responsibility and work towards a peaceful resolution, ensuring the safety and empowerment of Sudanese women. Let us all contribute to this crucial effort and not look away from the suffering endured by these brave women.