South Sudan has agreed to look at the recruitment of child soldiers, stopping female genital mutilation and to bring an end to ongoing hostility.
However, in turn, they will refuse to end the death penalty and an end to the ban on gay sex citing the country’s ‘traditional culture’.
Amnesty International has told Gay Star News South Sudan is the ‘kind of place, given the lawlessness, where you could easily end up dead because of your actual or perceived sexuality’.
The United Nations Human Rights Council delivered a peer review by the rest of the world to the northeast African country, which gained its independence in 2011.
The Universal Review was delivered in November last year. South Sudan has now given their final position on the recommendations.
Justice Minister Paulino Wanawila claimed the UN Human Rights Council had asked them to legalize marriage equality. This is false. Instead, they were asked to decriminalize homosexuality.
Uruguay’s representative urged on South Sudan to repeal the part of the Penal Code that bans ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’ – or gay sex – punishable by up to 10 years in prison. LGBTI people are also subject to local laws, which include the death penalty.
There has only been one LGBTI rights organization in South Sudan, which has since disbanded. Many of its members fled the country after being harassed, attacked or threatened with their lives.
Wanawila told Eye Radio: ‘Same-sex marriage is in conflict with our national laws and our cultures.’
In the response to the Universal Review, South Sudan said decriminalizing gay sex and ending the death penalty was ‘in conflict with national laws and policies’. And so, they would only consider the UN’s recommendations if their ‘traditional culture’ is respected.
Amnesty International South Sudan researcher Elizabeth Deng told GSN that, compared to the rest of Africa, society and government is ‘very hostile’ towards homosexuality.
‘No one can be openly homosexual in South Sudan’
‘No one can be openly homosexual in South Sudan,’ she said. ‘Given the lawlessness, it’s the kind of place where you could easily end up dead because your actual or perceived sexuality.’
Deng suspects it is likely the government will not work on any of the United Nations recommendations.
‘It is not a government which takes human rights seriously,’ she said. ‘When you do not have the basic right to life for its citizens, I’m not expecting [the UN report] to have much impact on the government’s policies.’
She added: ‘Adultery is criminalized. The rate of sexual violence is astounding. I’m sure there are plenty of gay people in South Sudan who suffer in silence. Given what they know to be the cultural hostility, it would be a huge risk to their lives if they came out.’
In 2015, UNICEF helped to free 1,775 child soldiers in South Sudan. However, due to growing violence, there has been a recent surge in ‘new recruitment’.