South Sudan President Salva Kiir. South Sudan Government.

A report by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute shows that violence against women and girls in South Sudan is among the highest in the world, the Sudan Tribune reports.

According to the report, 65 percent of of women interviewed said they had experienced sexual or physical violence, while over half of them reported domestic abuse.

Moreover, the United Nations (UN) civilian protection site in South Sudan’s capital Juba has not been spared, with the report stating women and girls there were the most vulnerable to sexual violence.

Husbands and partners of the women were reported to be the perpetrators of the most common forms of domestic violence and this occurred primarily in their homes.

However, 33 percent of the women surveyed in Rumbek, the capital of South Sudan’s Western Lakes state, and those living in UN protection of civilian sites (PoCs) in Bentiu and Juba, said they had experienced sexual violence from a non-partner, with many incidents related to a raid, displacement or abduction.

IRC’s CEO and British Labour Party politician David Miliband said the report presented a shocking scale of violence against women in South Sudan.

"This important research shows that we need to rethink the threats that women and girls face in conflict zones. Not only are they at risk of attack from armed men and gangs but, tragically, they are at risk within their own homes, from partners and family members," he said.

The UN confirmed that gender-based violence (GBV) was persistent and a serious problem in the country as 98 percent of the GBV incidents recorded in war-torn South Sudan in 2016 affected women and girls.

This violence included rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, forced and early marriage which affected women, girls, boys and men.

South Sudan’s ongoing civil war and armed conflict has fuelled GBV and impacted dangerously on the country’s social, cultural and economic sectors.

Nearly four years of a bloody civil war has killed tens of thousands of people, with an estimated up to four million people displaced both internally and externally since the conflict broke out in 2013.

It has created one of the largest refugee crises in the world today, with neighbouring countries hosting refugee camps filled with South Sudanese refugees. Uganda has borne the brunt of this.

The conflict involves the inability, and unwillingness, of President Salva Kiir’s governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party, and the SPLM in Opposition (SPLM-IO), to form a unity government despite international and regional pressure, and peace brokering efforts by regional bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

SPLM-IO leader in exile in South Africa, Dr Riek Machar, refused to meet with a delegation sent by Kiir several months ago to discuss the president’s National Dialogue initiative.

- African News Agency (ANA)