STPT report offers gender-informed perspective on Sudan conflict

Refugees from Sudan wait to collect aid items in a border village in Chad (File photo: © UNICEF / Donaig Le Du)

A newly released report authored by Zeinab Badawi for the Sudanese Transparency and Policy Tracker (STPT) has brought to light the profound and multifaceted impact of Sudan’s ongoing conflict on women.

Published this week, A Feminist Perspective on the Armed Conflict in Sudan delves into the socio-economic, political, and humanitarian dimensions of the crisis, highlighting the resilience and challenges faced by Sudanese women amidst the turmoil.

The report aims to “view the conflict from a female point of view: analysing the wide-ranging effects of the conflict on power dynamics and gender roles, and the circumstances of Sudanese women”.

Sudanese women bear a disproportionate burden of unpaid labour and caregiving responsibilities, often without recognition or support systems. The collapse of the Sudanese economy has thus “forced [women] to make difficult choices, such as working in dangerous professions that she would never have considered before.”

The lack of reliable data on poverty among women underscores broader gender data gaps, Badawi argues, hindering efforts to address economic disparities and vulnerabilities.

According to the report, the humanitarian crisis exacerbates vulnerabilities among women, with limited access to basic healthcare and essential services. Pregnant women and nursing mothers face dire circumstances, often giving birth without necessary medical interventions and risking complications due to malnutrition and inadequate healthcare in conflict zones.

“Some women have faced the possibility of death in search of a doctor or midwife, or giving birth in perilous conditions. Mothers are overwhelmingly forced to give birth in inhuman, degrading, harsh, and dangerous conditions. Pregnant women are confronted with the likelihood of giving birth without anaesthesia, medical precautions or the option of surgical intervention if necessary.”

Legal barriers further compound the challenges faced by displaced women, with restrictive policies impacting refugees’ rights to work and movement, disproportionately affecting women and girls.

Gender-based violence

“The injustices so keenly felt by women during the conflict have created a burgeoning feminist awareness.”

 The report details instances of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) as tools of terror and ethnic persecution. For instance, “though Article 135 of the Sudanese Criminal Code 1991 grants rape survivors the right to abort pregnancies resulting from the assault in the first 90 days, services are non-existent. There is no option of recourse to the law because courts and police stations are defunct, and procedural complexities get in the way of aiding these women.

“The repercussions of sexual violence will extend far beyond the end of the conflict, manifest in psychological and neurological trauma, in the refusal of families and communities to accept pregnancies and children born as a result of rape, and suicides and forced suicides of women (under pressure from their husbands or members of their communities).”

Badawi critiques successive regimes for failing to protect women’s rights and address the needs of vulnerable groups amid state fragility and governance failures.

Conversely, the report identifies a growing feminist consciousness among Sudanese women: “The injustices so keenly felt by women during the conflict have created a burgeoning feminist awareness.” Grassroots movements and international advocacy efforts seek to amplify women’s voices and address systemic injustices within Sudan and globally.

As Sudan navigates a fragile path towards peace and stability, the report calls for international solidarity and robust humanitarian action to mitigate the long-term impacts on Sudanese women. It urges local and global stakeholders to prioritise women’s rights and ensure their meaningful participation in shaping a post-conflict Sudan. “It is important to commit to and work towards at least 50 percent female participation in negotiations at every stage.”

“For real, effective female participation, it is essential that political and civilian leaders believe in the importance of this and prepare to make space for, and prioritise, women.”