South Sudan is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. South Sudanese women and girls, particularly those from rural areas or those who are internally displaced, are vulnerable to forced labor as domestic servants in homes in Yei, Bor, Wau, Torit, Nimule, and Juba, and possibly throughout the country; most are believed to be working without contracts or government-enforced labor protections. Some of these women and girls are sexually abused by male occupants of the household or forced to engage in commercial sex acts. South Sudanese girls, some as young as 10 years old, engage in prostitution within the country—including in restaurants, hotels, and brothels—at times induced by or under the control of third parties, including corrupt law enforcement officials. The majority of these victims are exploited in urban centers such as Juba, Torit, and Wau. Child prostitution continued to rise in Juba during the reporting period, as did the number of street children and child laborers—two groups that are highly vulnerable to labor and sexual exploitation. Children working in construction, market vending, shoe shining, car washing, rock breaking, brick making, delivery cart pulling, and begging may be victims of forced labor. South Sudan is a destination country for Ugandan, Kenyan, Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Congolese (DRC) women and girls subjected to sex trafficking. Many migrate willingly, with the promise of legitimate work, and are subsequently forced or coerced into the sex trade. South Sudanese and foreign business owners exploit the lure created by employment opportunities in hotels, restaurants, and the construction industry to entice men and women from these countries, as well as South Sudanese women and children living in rural areas, to migrate to urban centers where they are subsequently forced to work for little or no pay. Kenyan and Ugandan children are subjected to domestic servitude and forced labor in construction and street vending in South Sudan. Local civil society organizations report that overall instances of trafficking increased during the reporting period, largely due to a continued influx of foreign laborers, including children, who are vulnerable to exploitation and that some traffickers may operate in organized networks within the country and across borders. Some government officials, including members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) were complicit in trafficking offenses. Authorities occasionally assisted traffickers in crossing international borders, and some public officials subjected women and girls to domestic servitude; others purchased sex from child trafficking victims or facilitated the prostitution of children.
Inter-ethnic abductions continued between some communities in South Sudan, especially in Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria states. In Jonglei state, this was less prevalent than during the previous reporting period; however, dozens of women and children were kidnapped during the year. Some abductees were subsequently subjected to conditions of domestic servitude, forced animal herding, or sex trafficking. South Sudanese girls, particularly in Upper Nile state, were reportedly sometimes abducted by Sudanese slave traders and transported into Sudan, where they were subsequently forced into domestic servitude or sold into other forms of slavery in Khartoum or other urban centers. Thousands of Dinka women and children and a lesser number of Nuba children were abducted and subsequently enslaved by members of the Missiriya and Rizeigat ethnic groups during the concluded North-South civil war. Some of those enslaved remain in Sudan with their captors. Orphans were vulnerable to abduction for exploitation in sex and labor trafficking while moving between refugee camps, particularly while crossing the Kenya-South Sudan border.
Girls as young as nine years old in Eastern Equatoria state were forced into marriages, at times as compensation for inter-clan killings; some may have been subsequently subjected to sexual slavery or domestic servitude. Forcible recruitment of adults and particularly children by virtually all armed groups involved in Sudan’s concluded North-South civil war, including the SPLA, was previously commonplace. UN monitors in the country, however, reported that there was no evidence of forcible recruitment of adults or children by the SPLA during the year. Monitors did report one incident in which two children were kidnapped by SPLA officers and subsequently released; these children may have been subjected to labor or sexual exploitation while held by the officers. Children remained among the ranks of the government’s security forces; the UN reported 72 children were identified and removed from the SPLA, and one child was identified and removed from the SSNPS. While UNICEF reported that the SPLA removed from its ranks all known children who were used in combat, at least 250 children remained associated with the SPLA as of December 2012, performing various support roles. Some areas of the country were difficult to reach or too unsafe to access, limiting international monitors’ ability to assess the SPLA’s adherence to laws in all regions of the country, and government and NGO officials acknowledged that incidents of sex trafficking and forced labor of children associated with the SPLA may still occur. During the reporting period, militias that were known to harbor children among their ranks were integrated into the SPLA, though UNICEF reports that the groups were adequately vetted and that in all known cases associated children were identified and removed prior to being integrated. Unlike during the previous year, there were no reports of forcible recruitment of adults or children by the SSNPS. Armed militia groups, including those allied to David Yau Yau in Jonglei state, recruited hundreds of children as young as 10 years old throughout the year, at times through force. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement—North (SPLM-N), a Sudan-based group that was formerly aligned with the SPLA and that according to published reports continued to receive support from the SPLA during the reporting period, periodically conducted campaigns in which it forcibly recruited adults and children it labeled as “deserters” within refugee camps in South Sudanese territory, including in Yida, Unity state and Maban, Upper Nile state. The SPLM-N reportedly used child soldiers in Sudan to fight against the Sudan Armed Forces and aligned militias. Although the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continued to harbor enslaved South Sudanese children in neighboring countries for use as cooks, porters, concubines, and combatants, the UN reported there were no LRA attacks or abductions in South Sudan during the reporting period.
The Government of South Sudan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government made progress in implementing its UN-backed action plan to eliminate the use of child soldiers in its armed forces; it identified and demobilized 72 children from the SPLA, improved efforts to vet new recruits for age verification, and, in partnership with UN agencies, increased its provision of reintegration services to demobilized children. However, its efforts to address other forms of trafficking—which reportedly increased during the year—remained negligible. Authorities identified six suspected trafficking victims without rescuing them from situations of exploitation or referring them to care. Few services for trafficking victims were available, and the government continued to indiscriminately arrest individuals in prostitution, including child sex trafficking victims, and sentence them to time in prison. Observers reported an increased awareness among government officials of the problem of child soldier recruitment, but awareness of other forms of trafficking remained low among all levels of government. The government did not demonstrate overall increased efforts to address all forms of trafficking since the previous reporting period; therefore, South Sudan is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year.
Recommendations for South Sudan: Adopt a time-bound national action plan to combat human trafficking, and allocate resources toward its implementation; launch a public awareness campaign to educate government officials and the general public on the nature and dangers of all forms of human trafficking; enact the draft labor act to ensure adequate prohibitions of forced labor; train law enforcement and judicial officials to recognize trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, particularly individuals in prostitution and children in street vending, construction, or domestic work; work with NGOs to develop an inventory of service providers, and train government officials on procedures to refer victims to these organizations to receive care; ensure trafficking victims are not prosecuted for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked; increase efforts to investigate suspected human trafficking cases, prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; continue to allow unimpeded access to military barracks for monitoring missions to identify and remove any child soldiers or other children associated with the military; in accordance with the UN-backed action plan and the February 2013 child protection order, punish military officials found to be in violation of laws related to recruitment, use, and association of children; end all support—whether financial or in-kind—to militia groups that unlawfully recruit or use child soldiers or forcibly recruit adults for operations within or outside the country; form an interagency committee to develop and implement a national anti-trafficking policy; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The Government of South Sudan made no significant law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking during the reporting period. Its law enforcement presence in most regions of the country remained limited; some courts did not operate, and those that functioned often lacked adequate human and physical resources to investigate and prosecute criminals, including traffickers. Nevertheless, the government took law enforcement action against women and girls in the sex trade, many of whom may have been trafficking victims; these actions, which were harmful to victims, demonstrate that it was within the government’s limited means to begin investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenses using existing laws. South Sudanese law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. South Sudan’s Penal Code Act of 2008 (Article 282) prescribes a sufficiently stringent punishment of up to seven years’ imprisonment for the sale of a person across international borders. The Penal Code Act also prohibits and prescribes punishments of up to seven years’ imprisonment for abduction (Article 278) and transfer of control over a person (Article 279) for the purpose of unlawful compulsory labor; the prescribed punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment for compulsory labor without aggravating circumstances is not sufficiently stringent. Article 276 criminalizes buying or selling a child for the purpose of prostitution and prescribes a punishment of up to 14 years’ imprisonment—a penalty that is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Punishments prescribed in Article 254 for procuring a child (up to 10 years’ imprisonment) or an adult (up to two years’ imprisonment) for the purposes of prostitution are not commensurate with those for rape. Article 258 prescribes punishments of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for parents or guardians who cause or allow their child to be involved in the sex trade. South Sudan’s Child Act of 2008 prohibits the recruitment and use of children for military or paramilitary activities, and prescribes punishments of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for such crimes. The omnibus labor act, which was drafted by the Ministry of Labor in 2009 and would provide further protections against forced labor, was once again not passed during the most recent legislative session.
The Government of South Sudan did not investigate or prosecute any trafficking offenses using these or other articles during the reporting period. Instead, it continued to arrest and jail victims for prostitution or immigration violations, sometimes apprehended through large-scale indiscriminate sweeps of brothel districts. Pervasive corruption in the judicial sector allowed perpetrators to prevent legal proceedings using intimidation or bribery, and charges were dropped in some instances against prominent community members or members of the security forces suspected of trafficking. Police facilitated the extradition of two Ugandan nationals, alleged to have forced victims into street vending in South Sudan, to their home country for investigation but did not pursue efforts to investigate or prosecute the suspected offenses in South Sudan. Despite signing an action plan with the UN in the previous reporting period, which committed the SPLA to hold its military officers criminally accountable for the recruitment or use of children, the government did not make progress in investigating, prosecuting, or punishing SPLA officers who allegedly committed such acts. In February 2013, however, it issued a command order to military officers stating that anyone, including commanders, who recruits or uses child soldiers in any capacity will be prosecuted and punished under the code of military justice. It is unknown whether the government took any actions to enforce prohibitions on the recruitment of children among the SPLM-N, to which it allegedly provided some support, as it maintained that it did not have a relationship with this group and knew nothing about its recruitment practices. The government did not provide specialized anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officers or judicial officials during the year, though an international donor developed training for new police recruits, and approximately 300 received this training in February and March 2013. Despite evidence of government complicity in trafficking and trafficking-related criminal activities, no government officials were investigated or prosecuted for such crimes during the reporting period.
The Government of South Sudan made progress in providing limited protection to former child soldiers, but its provision of protection to victims of other forms of trafficking was negligible, and at times its law enforcement efforts were harmful to victims. The government did not take steps to proactively identify victims of sex or labor trafficking among vulnerable populations, and it did not employ a systematic process to transfer identified victims to organizations to receive care. The Ministry of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare (MoGSW), with support from international donors, operated a children’s shelter that could be used to shelter trafficking victims; however, the shelter was not equipped to handle trafficking cases and was poorly resourced. Front-line officers lacked awareness of available resources for trafficking victims and failed to remove from exploitative situations victims with whom they came in contact; during the year, immigration and police officials identified six suspected sex trafficking victims and reported them to an international organization in Juba. The organization, however, was unable to locate the victims, and their whereabouts are unknown. The MoGSW reportedly referred an unknown number of additional victims to a local NGO on an ad hoc basis. Members of the Ugandan and Kenyan expatriate communities and community organizations identified 10 possible victims of forced labor, including domestic servitude, seven of whom were children, and referred them to an international organization. There were no specialized services available for male, adult, or foreign trafficking victims or for any victims outside of Juba. The government did not encourage victims’ assistance in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes or provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they would face hardship or retribution. Social stigma and justified fears of punitive consequences discouraged victims, particularly sex trafficking victims, from communicating with law enforcement authorities; in one reported incident, an SPLA officer forcibly removed a child sex trafficking victim from an NGO facility. Government officials’ failure to recognize cases of human trafficking at times led to victims being punished as law violators. In one such case, a Ugandan victim seeking assistance from the police in Juba was arrested for lack of proper documentation. During the year, police routinely arrested and jailed individuals in prostitution without making efforts to determine whether they were trafficking victims.
UN monitors identified and demobilized 72 child soldiers in the SPLA and one child in the SSNPS during 2012. In August 2012, SPLA officers abducted two girls aged 10 and 13 during civilian disarmament in Jonglei state; they were released two days later. In February 2013, the SPLA published a command order granting full access to barracks and other installations for international monitors, and UN officials reported the military abided by these terms. The South Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Commission partnered with UN agencies to provide reintegration services, including interviewing and registration, to 114 child soldiers rescued from both the government’s security forces and other armed groups. State-level ministries of social development conducted family tracing for registered children. During the year, the services available to male and female children increased to include vocational training for older children and support for school attendance for those younger than 13. There were no specialized support services, however, available for girls released from armed groups.
The government made modest efforts during the reporting period to prevent trafficking. It did not conduct any anti-trafficking information or education campaigns, though in August 2012 the SPLA, together with UN, held awareness-raising sessions on the UN-backed action plan addressing child soldiers as well as relevant South Sudanese laws prohibiting child soldiering. More than 1,600 SPLA soldiers and officers participated in these sessions, and 98 local community leaders participated in additional sessions about the prevention of child recruitment into armed groups. Trafficking awareness remained low among government officials and members of the public. It is unknown what efforts, if any, authorities in South Sudan took during the reporting period to address the labor exploitation of South Sudanese nationals working abroad or foreign nationals within South Sudan. In 2012, the government established a national steering committee on child labor and a specialized unit with dedicated staff to investigate general cases of child labor, which would include forced child labor. In addition, the South Sudan Human Rights Commission conducted research on child labor issues. Both of these institutions lacked resources, however, to conduct investigations and did not report any actions to address forced child labor. With UN financial support, the SPLA trained 157 child protection officers in 2012 to recognize and report the military’s association with child soldiers, to work with community leaders to prevent underage recruitment, and to vet soldiers integrating from rebel militia groups. UN monitors report the SPLA’s procedures for vetting new recruits for age verification improved during the year and, as a result of these efforts, many children were barred from joining the military during a recruitment drive in April 2012. Nonetheless, low rates of birth registration made it difficult to verify ages, and the government’s recruitment drive increased children’s vulnerability to recruitment. The government made no discernible efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period. South Sudan is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.