Nearly 80 women and 50 children who had been held for nearly two years in military bases by SPLA-IO in the Western Equatoria region have been released, the United Nations has said.
On Tuesday, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms. Pramila Patten, said the 78 women and 50 children were among the more than 500 abducted between April and August 2018.
They were reportedly subjected to repeated rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage by members of the SPLA-IO of Dr. Riek Machar.
“I welcome the release of these women and children, which follows many months of sustained advocacy and engagement by my Office, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and the Senior Women Protection Advisor with Dr. Riek Machar and his local commanders,” said Special Representative Patten.
“When I met with Dr. Machar last year, I expressed my grave concern about the plight of these women and children, many of whom were reportedly subjected to systematic and brutal forms of conflict-related sexual violence.”
Ms. Pramila revealed that several women have already been identified as pregnant and have been referred to prenatal healthcare facilities.
She stated that the UN will continue to call for accountability for sexual violence crimes in order to prevent and deter future violations.
However, the SPLA-IO has denied the women in question were forcefully conscripted into its ranks.
“The SPLA-IO did not hold these people against their will, but majority of them just came,” Col. Lam Paul, SPLA-IO deputy military spokesperson, told Eye Radio on Wednesday.
Col. Paul argued that some of the women were screened out, because they were expectant and lactating.
“As I’ve already seen there were some with kids, and others pregnant and so they could not go back to military life. So those are the ones we released.”
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