Tønnessen warns about the curbing of Darfur’s women activists in policy brief

Photo: CMI

In the recently published policy brief Curbing women activists in Darfur in the wake of the international criminal court, Liv Tønnessen – Senior Researcher at CMI – highlights how a restraining political climate in Sudan has curtailed local, national and international efforts to monitor and report on cases of sexual violence in Darfur. In the wake of Sudan’s President Omar-al-Bashir’s indictment to the International Criminal Court (ICC) under allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including responsibility for systematic and widespread sexual violence in Darfur, women activists have been affected through the constant threat of NGO shut down and increased governmental surveillance.

‘The official stance of the regime is that widespread and systematic sexual violence has not taken place’, Tønessen writes. Civil society initiatives and international human rights and humanitarian NGOs operating within the field of sexual abuse have been accused by governmental bodies of partiality and intervention in the domestic affairs of the state and deemed as threats to the security and stability of the country. As a result, Tønnessen suggests that the work of women activists in Darfur has been both indirectly and directly affected. The former occurs through the expulsion or closure of NGOs and results in a loss of vital funding for their activities. The latter implies that increased surveillance and threat of being shut down contributed to re-direct activities away from sexual violence and means that efforts to report and monitor cases have been drastically reduced as data on the issue becomes more difficult to obtain.

Despite being curbed by restrictive measures, in an act of bravery, women activists are still raising their voices at great personal risks. ‘This time they are not working through the gateway of international humanitarian NGOs, but in their own right’, Tønnessen concludes.

N.B. This policy brief was published in CMI Insight and is an output of the Protection of Civilians: From Principle to Practice project, a project under the umbrella of the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS). Read the full policy brief here.