A UN Police officer makes a point during training on how to curb SGBV in Kapoeta
“Rape and child marriage are crimes… no matter the cultural justifications.”
This important message was shared by Kapoeta police officer Matheus Christopher Iokoto at a training workshop on conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence conducted by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
“Perpetrators must be held to account and victims must receive the necessary medical attention and psychosocial support,” said Corporal Regina Louren Joseph, following up on her colleague’s emphasis on the need to protect survivors of sexual crimes.
The three-day workshop held in the Eastern Equatorian town of Kapoeta involved 50 personnel serving with the South Sudan National Police Service as well as local immigration and prison officers.
“We are committed to creating platforms that allow for constructive discussions and the learning and sharing of experiences to progress our society in support of our women, boys and girls,” said Caroline Waudo, the head of the UNMISS field office in the area.
Topics included the police code of conduct under the South Sudan National Police Service Act of 2009, human rights, and conflict-related sexual violence.
The South Sudanese officers welcomed the opportunity to learn from their counterparts serving with the UN peacekeeping mission to protect civilians and build durable peace in the conflict-affected country.
“This time, we joined hands with UN Police to guarantee that our officers cooperate with their respective communities to gather information and reduce crime,” said Captain Solomon Oliga Cypriano, a legal officer with the police service in Torit.
The UN police officers conducting the training reinforced the need for a thorough, professional and sensitive approach to investigating sexual crimes.
“Confidentiality and professionalism are key in handling gender-sensitive issues,” said UNPOL team leader, Simon Yevu. “For example, law enforcement officers should understand why men and women should not be held together in the same detention cell.”
As well as protecting the victim, the officers also emphasized the need to respect the rights of alleged offenders.
“It is imperative that officers treat survivors of sexual crimes with respect. Victims should not be blamed for the wrongs done them,” said UNPOL officer, Eunice Apassnaba. “That a person is arrested and suspected of committing a crime, does not mean their human rights should be suspended. International norms of privacy should still prevail.”
There was also recognition that it is not only women and girls who suffer sexual violence.
“Let us not forget that men also suffer domestic abuse,” said UNMISS gender officer, Mikelina Emilio. “A man who suffers such abuse may end up emotionally harassed and depressed, losing interest in the occupation he is associated with. If he is the only bread winner in the family, the family may find it difficult to survive after the violence has been meted out.”
Other issues discussed included domestic violence, child protection in armed conflict, case management and court procedures, differences between traditional and community policing.
“Community policing is helping me create better relationships with the people in my locality. More and more, I see that I am providing better support to victims,” said court police officer, John Dominic.
UN Police work across the country to provide technical assistance and to build the capacity of the local police force so they can meet international standards of policing.