2 May 2023
Situation of women and girls in Sudan
Since the start of the war in Sudan on 15 April 2023, reported deaths have reached a total of 600 and reports of over 5000 injuries. Dozens of women were killed and hundreds were injured. At least four women working in the health sector were killed, two of them were physicians. Women were killed and injured in the areas of hostilities in Khartoum, Nayala, Alobied and Alfashir. Women were also injured and killed in the intercommunal fighting in El Geneina, western Darfur. In the hostilities in Alfashir in north Darfur, at least 23 women were killed in two days on 15 and 16 April. In Nayala of South Darfur, at least 15 women were killed, among them were four girls. “My sister’s child was 11 years old. She was shot on the third day of the fighting in Nayala. A bullet injured her on the chest, and she died immediately”, said one woman in South Darfur.
A homeless girls’ shelter in Khartoum was shelled on 16 April and a disabled 11 year-old girl was killed, and a 9 year-old girl in the shelter was injured in her stomach, according to reports by a girl from the shelter who witnessed the shelling. The elderly women’s shelter in Khartoum was also affected by the fighting. More than 30 elderly women are trapped between the fighting area with limited food and without electricity which is threatening their health and wellbeing. An orphanage home in Alamygoma which is hosting over 400 children is suffering from lack of supplies including children’s milk.
Incidents of sexual assaults by men in uniform from both fighting parties were reported in Khartoum, and other states in Sudan. At least seven cases of rape were reported in Khartoum. At least two cases followed medical and legal procedures that included “form no.8”, which is a legal and medical reporting form for physical assault in the Sudanese law. A lawyer reported that this process was completed for at least two survivors. Other cases were not able to pursue any procedures due to the security situation, and continuous fighting. A foreign woman working in Khartoum was sexually assaulted within the first week of the fighting.
Disrupted communications, internet services and banking services hindered thousands of people from leaving Khartoum. Women and children remain the most affected by these conditions.
Thousands of women and children were forced to leave their homes in Khartoum and several states. Displacement of tens of thousands of women and children increased the humanitarian crisis in some states such as Aljazeera, River Nile state and eastern states. Women and children are suffering on the borders of Egypt, Ethiopia as well as others who are trying to cross to Saudi Arabia through the Red sea. Thousands fled from Darfur to Chad despite the lack of humanitarian aid, as there are more than 300 thousands already living in refugee camps in Chad since 2003.
The prices of transportation from Khartoum to other states and to other countries has reached skyrocketing prices. Short trips within Khattoum city to evacuate some families and women at risk cost more than 500 USD. The shortages in gas and the lack of humanitarian corridors has limited the chances of thousands of people to evacuate from Khartoum. “We are stuck on the Egyptian borders for two days without food or water, no bathrooms or places to sleep. Most of those stuck here are women and children”, said a woman displaced from Khartoum recently.
Thousands of women working as street vendors living in the outskirts of Khartoum and in IDPs camps in Darfur lost their sources of income, as they depend on their daily work selling food and tea on the streets. These women are heads of households of tens of thousands of families in Khartoum and Darfur. Those in Khartoum don’t have resources to leave with skyrocketing prices.
Most essential services are not working including electricity, water and healthcare in Khartoum. In Darfur, electricity was working in Nayala, but Alfashir was suffering from an outage of electricity. Over 70% of hospitals and healthcare institutions are out of services in Sudan since 15 April. According to UNFPA, 219,000 pregnant women are at risk of losing their lives and children, due to the lack of reproductive health services. Sexual and reproductive healthcare and access for support services for victims of SGBV are one of the main challenges for women across Sudan, and for women in Khartoum and Darfur in particular.
Situation of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and women’s rights groups in Sudan
WHRDs in Sudan are facing unprecedented risk to their lives, but the threats and challenges to them under this conflict are not only because of the war. WHRDs are being targeted during this conflict by former regime supporters for their positions of calling for an end to the war. Women journalists, political activists and lawyers are especially at risk following the escape of former regime leaders from prison.
“As WHRDs from Darfur, we are at serious risk with the return of the former regime members. They publicly threatened activists in the markets, on social media and in social gatherings here in Darfur. One of the former regime security members said to some activists in the market, “we will finish our fight with the RSF and you will be our next target”, said a WHRD from Darfur.
In Khartoum, WHRDs, women activists and politicians were receiving similar threats. There are also reports of assassination lists that included journalists, lawyers, and members of resistance committees.
The lack of access for safety networks inside Sudan is increasing risks for WHRDs. Internet and communication disturbance disconnected WHRDs and women groups and have created increased challenges for documentation of violence against women and disrupted the ability of women groups to respond to this crisis.
While the fighting in Khartoum forced all women’s rights groups to shut down their offices, they continued working under increasing risks to the lives of the groups’ members. Despite this challenging situation, women groups and WHRDs are leading the work on the ground to respond to this crisis. They are trying to support in filling the gaps of the absence of the basic government services and humanitarian aid organizations. Women groups are collecting local donations and resources to provide food and medical care, helping in organizing evacuations for families and themselves and helping most vulnerable communities, and providing healthcare and support for survivors of SGBV. Women in safer cities are working on providing shelter and food supplies collected from local communities.
Our organizations urge:
- Both parties in the conflict to halt hostilities, protect civilians and open humanitarian corridors.
- Both parties in the conflict and the international community to ensure the protection of women human rights defenders.
- Both parties in the conflict and the international community to ensure the protection of women from sexual violence and guarantee the provision of essential services for survivors.
- The Human Rights Council to convene a special session and establish an international investigation mechanism with sufficient resources including to document SGBV.
- Sudanese Women Rights Action (SUWRA)
- International Service for Human Rights
- WHRD-MENA Coalition
- Statement by Sudanese Women Rights Action (SUWRA) – 15 April 2023
- Joint statement the Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in West Asia and North Africa (WANA), Sudanese Women Rights Action (SUWRA) and Nora Center for Combating Sexaual violence ( NORA) – 16 April 2023
- Joint NGO letter urging the Human Rights Council to convene a special session and establish an investigative mechanism on Sudan – 26 April 2023