Women and girls have become the worst victims of the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, United Nations said in its report published Friday. They have been targeted by both government forces and allied militia, and opposition groups. Several women have been abducted by soldiers and shared as "wives," and girls as young as five years old have been raped in the war-torn nation.
The report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which is an assessment of the human rights situation in South Sudan, mentions details of "government-operated 'scorched earth policy' and deliberate targeting of civilians for killing, rape and pillage," according to a OHCHR statement.
"The UN and AU [African Union] reporting found that government and opposition forces and their allied militia have killed civilians, raped women and girls, pillaged and destroyed civilian property such as houses, humanitarian infrastructure, medical facilities including hospitals, and schools," the report said.
Members of "the parties to the conflict" have been accused of targeting "young girls in particular (usually those unmarried or without children)" for sexual slavery.
The UN report cited two incidents of sexual violence against young girls. During an attack in a village in Koch in October 2015, at least 10 Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers allegedly tied one woman to a tree and raped her 15-year-old daughter in front of her. In yet another incident in May, 11-year-old girl and her nine-year-old friend were gang-raped by three soldiers in front of former's mother in Koch.
The report has also highlighted some other incidents, where women have been abducted by soldiers, raped and made to do chores like cooking, cleaning and fetching firewood in their barracks, or "where the soldiers sleep." Those who resisted rape were gang-raped by the SPLA soldiers, according to the report.
"One woman explained to the assessment team how she was abducted with 27 other women from a village in Leer during an attack by SPLA in October. She and the other women were then 'shared' amongst the soldiers as 'wives.' She also explained she was raped by three other men, besides the one who took her as his 'wife.' She was released after a week together with at least 50 women after the intervention of a local community leader," the report said.
"Pregnant and elderly women and women with disabilities were not spared, and there were some reports of boys and men being raped, particularly in acts perpetrated by Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) fighters," it added.
As many as 1,300 women and girls were raped between April 2015 and September 2015 in Unity State, one of the 10 states in South Sudan, where a civil war started in December 2013. The Protection Cluster in South Sudan reported at least 50 additional cases of rape between September 2015 and October 2015.
According to the UN report, majority of rapes and sexual violence against women were "widespread or systematic, committed with impunity and perpetrated to instill terror within civilian communities perceived to support an opposing side."
The UN report said the "documented brutal violations and abuses of human rights committed by the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) forces, together with allied militia" could "amount to war crimes and/or crimes against humanity if established in a court of law."