GBV-related pregnancies surge in Sudan

A woman with her severely malnourished baby at a Darfur hospital (File photo: Albert González Farran / UNAMID)

The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) reported today that several victims of gender-based violence (GBV) in Darfur have endured unwanted pregnancies due to inadequate access to medical attention. Harrowing testimonies by survivors shed a new light on the realities of GBV at the hands of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan.

The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) previously documented incidents where fourteen women and girls in South Darfur were sexually assaulted by men in RSF uniforms. A follow-up with the victims published today indicated that six of them became pregnant after failing to receive medical attention. Three other survivors obtained abortions.

Mona*, a 24-year-old resident of Kalma camp, recounted her ordeal to ACJPS. She was raped by armed men in RSF uniforms on December 25, 2023. By January 2024, she discovered she was pregnant. “I couldn’t control my tears after receiving the news,” she said. Her family would not consider an abortion due to social stigma.

Shahidah*, a 33-year-old resident of Otash camp, was raped on December 12, 2023, alongside other displaced women by armed men in RSF uniforms. She also found out she was pregnant in January 2024 and, after discussing with her husband, decided to terminate the pregnancy. “The stigma from people in the community was affecting me negatively,” she testified.

A credible source told ACJPS that the actual number of rape victims seeking abortions is very likely underreported due to the associated stigma.

North Darfur

Between April 15, 2023, and March 27, 2024, at least 81 cases of sexual violence were reported in North Darfur, particularly in El Fasher, Kutum, and Tawila. Displaced women and girls aged 12 to 40 were the most affected, and only 22 of the 81 victims were able to receive medical assistance due to severe shortages in medical supplies.

Fatima*, aged 16 years old, was raped by two armed men dressed in RSF uniform while fleeing from Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, to El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur.

“She ended up getting pregnant because she was unable to access medical assistance. She also faced stigma from society which eventually caused her to attempt to take her own life. Although she was rescued and taken to South Hospital, she unfortunately died as doctors were on strike on that fateful day”, the report states.

The RSF and allied militias attacked the SAF base in Kutum, North Darfur, on June 5 last year. At least 29 women were assaulted amidst the ensuing violence.

In Tawila, North Darfur, at least 32 women and girls were subjected to GBV in a three-day RSF attack on the locality. Victims struggled to find medical help as hospitals were raided and supplies plundered. The fighting disrupted the transport of humanitarian aid, deepening medicine shortages.

“The attackers were many in number and when they raided a house in the neighbourhood, neighbours would not come to the victims’ rescue as they feared that they would suffer the same fate”, a resident of Tawila recounted to AJCPS.

West Darfur

ACJPS reported that between June 26, 2023, and August 4, 2023, at least 30 cases of sexual violence were recorded in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. Victims included young girls abducted and subjected to “sexual slavery” by RSF members and allied groups.

On June 28, 2023, two women were raped in Libya market, and multiple other incidents occurred in other neighbourhoods, often involving armed men in RSF uniforms. “I saw a lady aged approximately 20 years old crossing the road in the company of an elderly man. The two were stopped by two armed Arab men and under gunpoint, the lady was raped in the presence of the elderly man. I witnessed the incident while in hiding…,” a witness from El Geneina said.

A victim from El Geneina told ACJPS that her family home “was raided by three armed men. One of them was wearing an RSF uniform while the other two were dressed in plain clothes. The raiders demanded gold and money but I responded and told them that we had neither.

“One of the raiders then grabbed me by the waist and raped me in the presence of my children and the other raiders. They then went to my bedroom, searched, and stole 3 million Sudanese pounds that belonged to my husband who works as a businessman. They also stole the Television set and left.”

A previous report by the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), covered by Radio Dabanga on November 24, underscored a distressing pattern of gender-based violence in Sudan, calling it a ‘weapon of war’. At the time, women’s organisations had documented over 120 confirmed cases of rape as of October, with the actual number likely much higher.


*All names have been anonymised to protect privacy.

The full report ‘Sudan War: A surge of unwanted pregnancies as a result of sexual violence’ is available on the ACJPS website.

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