Last Friday, the PHR team delivered to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a joint advocacy letter, urging that sexual and gender-based violence (SGV) programming be recognized as an urgent need in Sudan. Forty advocacy and human rights groups called on Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sudan Envoy Scott Gration to recognize the absence of vital SGV programming following the March 2009 expulsion of international humanitarian organizations and key Sudanese NGOs.  The number of supporting organizations has since grown to more than 60.

The team from PHR met with General Gration’s office, and with the office of the Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues on Friday, to present the letter and advocate for the inclusion of SGV programs in the Sudan Policy benchmarks.

The elimination of SGV services in Sudan is a perfect storm of collateral damage: when the 16 international humanitarian organizations and NGOs were expelled, these programs—and equally importantly, the network of SGV-focused personnel and leadership—disappeared. In a climate where remaining staff and organizations were afraid to rebuild or renegotiate their contracts for fear of Government of Sudan retribution, services for survivors of sexual violence in Darfur collapsed.

Despite this, and despite the fine work of the State department on a number of gender-based violence issues, the issue of sexual violence was not explicitly recognized in the administration’s Sudan Policy review, nor was it included in the details of US strategic objective #1, which deals with the humanitarian situation in Darfur. It was, however, recognized by the UN panel of experts in the recent report released on the humanitarian situation in Darfur, and has been a key sticking point for activists in the US at the recent Pledge to Protect conference.

Today—just in time for the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women on November 25—PHR has launched  a congressional action for advocates and activists to urge Senators and Representatives to join us in our call to the State department on this issue. Partnering with our co-signatories, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA, the Arab Coalition for Darfur, the Enough Project, Save Darfur Coalition and others, we continue to advocate for the restoration of services as basic as emergency assistance for injuries, documentation of injuries sustained during these brutal attacks, access to HIV/AIDS prophylaxis treatment, pregnancy testing and psychological and social support. We ask Hillary Rodham Clinton and General Gration not only to include SGV programs as a benchmark in the Sudan policy, but also:

  • To ensure that renegotiation of technical agreements between humanitarian organizations and the Government of Sudan takes place, so that international humanitarian organizations and NGOs can incorporate or SGV programs into their authorized operations in Sudan.
  • To monitor Government of Sudan obstruction of SGV services in Khartoum and on the ground: SGV services must be restored and made available to all IDP populations, including West and South Darfur, where humanitarian operations have historically functioned at a lower level than in North Darfur state.
  • To support and facilitate coordination between aid agencies, camp residents and UNAMID gender desk officers. The recruitment of gender desk officers must involve camp residents, and the work of gender experts should fully utilize the expertise and resources of aid agencies as well as camp residents, to ensure the establishment of culturally competent services.

We need action to protect the rights of survivors in Darfur: please let your US Senators and Representative know.

(Cross-posted on Health Rights Advocate)