Voices from Sudan 2020, published this week, is the first-ever nationwide qualitative assessment of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country, where a transitional government is now in its second year.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Government Unit to Combat Violence Against Women (CVAW), co-authors of the report, tackling the problem is a critical priority.
“The current context of increased openness by the government of Sudan and dynamism of civil society offers opportunities for significant benefits in advancing women’s security and rights,” they said.
Physical violence at home
The report aims to complement existing methods of data collection and analysis by ensuring that women’s and girls’ views, experiences and priorities are understood and addressed.
Researchers found that communities consider domestic and sexual violence to be the most common GBV problems.
Key areas of concern include physical violence in the home by husbands against wives and brothers against sisters, as well as restrictions on movement to which women and girls are subject.
Another area of concern is sexual violence, especially against women in informal jobs, but also against refugees and displaced women moving outside camps, people with disabilities and children in Koranic schools.
Press to comply
Forced marriages are also “prominent,” the report said. Most of these unions are arranged between members of the same tribe or relatives, without the girl’s consent or knowledge.
Meanwhile, female genital mutilation (FGM) remains widespread in Sudan, with varying differences based on geographic location and tribal affiliation. Although knowledge of the illegality and harmfulness of the practice has reached the community level, child marriage and FGM are not seen as major issues.
Women’s access to resources is also severely restricted. Men are in control of the financial resources and boys are preferred for access to opportunities, especially education. Verbal and psychological pressure to conform to existing gender norms and roles is widespread, leading to suicide in some cases.
The deteriorating economic situation since 2020 and COVID-19 have increased violence, especially domestic violence and forced marriage, the report said. There have also been reports of harassment in queues for essential supplies such as bread and fuel.
Data is dramatically lacking
Sudan continues to move towards democracy after the April 2019 overthrow of President Omar Al-Bashir, who held 30 years in power.
Discussing GBV openly “hasn’t been possible for the past three decades,” the report said.
“GBV data is dramatically lacking, with no nationwide review in the past 30 years, and a general lack of availability of qualitative and quantitative data,” the authors said.
To conduct the assessment, some 215 focus group discussions were held with communities: 21 with GBV experts, as well as a review of existing studies and assessments.
Research was conducted between August and November 2020, covering 60 sites and camps, and the data was scanned through qualitative analysis software, according to a model first used in Syria.