The prolonged conflict in Sudan has caused major harm in the lives of children. During conflict, children were killed, recruited into armed forces or groups, sexually abused, subjected to hard labour, abducted and denied access to education. Due to the socio-political context here, the government has placed a high priority on maintaining security, leaving little attention to children’s issues. In 2010, over 150 children were sentenced to prison by both statutory (legal courts) and customary judges (chiefs using traditional laws), in 4 states of Southern Sudan where the study was conducted, Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Jonglei and Western Bahr el Ghazal states [SCiSS study on children in conflict with the law 2010]. Very few children have access to schools, and children die every day from preventable diseases and lack of access to health facilities. Child rights monitoring and reporting is very weak due to weak reporting pathways. Given the rising violence against children, Southern Sudan is one of the hardest places to be a child.
Harmful traditional practices:
Southern Sudan is a region where cultural practices are part of governance in the society. Customary laws are often stronger than statutory laws. Girls and boys go through initiation rites, some of which are harmful, for example: early and forced marriages on young girls, facial scarification, and the removal of lower teeth.
Children without appropriate care and children on the move:
Due to conflicts arising from tribal and north-south tensions, more children and women are being displaced, separated from their families and consequently left without care. Recently, children on the streets have increased due to massive population movement, separation and the high poverty level. Girls are the most vulnerable when separated, as they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation. The prolonged conflict in Sudan has left dozens of children orphaned, a contributing factor to the increased number of children on the street. The government of Southern Sudan with support from development partners developed a draft policy on children without appropriate care and support. This policy document stipulates strategies to support children without appropriate care for example, foster care arrangements, adoption and interim care and support.
Emergency situations and children:
The rebellions fuelled by the April 2010 elections and upcoming independence attacked civilians, displaced dozens of people, and caused the separation and abduction of children during the conflicts. Militias often recruit children to use them in war and build up their numbers.
Flooding last year from the Nile during the rainy season caused displacement and interrupted schooling for children. Girls suffer the most during emergencies, because they are frequently used as a means of survival through forced early marriages and the receipt of dowries.
Child labour is a major problem facing children in southern Sudan, as traders often employ children with no wages at all. Children living and working on the streets are among the most affected. Child labour is prohibited under the Government of Southern Sudan Child Act of 2008 because it denies children the opportunity to go to school and subjects children to hard labour, affecting their overall growth and development.
Children are often punished in schools, in the community and at home by teachers or parents. Corporal punishment is culturally accepted as a form of disciplining children amongst most of southern Sudan tribes. The Southern Sudan Child Act 2008 stipulates explicitly that corporal punishment is a form of violence against children, and that it is prohibited in all settings.