Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 12:53 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - South Sudan

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - South Sudan, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 22 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

SOUTH SUDAN (Tier 2 Watch List)

South Sudan is a source and destination country for men, women, and children who are 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 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 with the assistance of third parties, including law enforcement officials; the majority of victims are exploited in urban centers such as Juba, Torit, and Wau. Juba has reportedly seen a significant rise in child prostitution in recent years, as well as in numbers of street children and child laborers – two groups which are highly vulnerable to labor and sexual exploitation. Children working in construction, market vending, shoe shining, 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, and Congolese 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. Some girls in prostitution, particularly in Juba, may be controlled by a third party. Ugandan children may be subjected to domestic servitude and forced labor in construction in South Sudan.

Thousands of Dinka women and children, and a lesser number of children from the Nuba ethnic group, 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. While there have been no known new abductions of Dinka by members of Baggara ethnic groups in a number of years, inter-ethnic abductions continue between some communities in South Sudan, especially in Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria states. Hundreds of women and children were abducted in 2011 during cattle raids and conflicts between rival ethnic groups, as well as during conflicts between the government's army – the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) – and armed groups. Some abductees were subsequently subjected to conditions of domestic servitude, forced animal herding, or commercial sexual exploitation.

Forcible recruitment of adults and particularly children by virtually all armed groups, including government forces involved in Sudan's concluded North-South civil war, was previously commonplace. Since seceding from Sudan and becoming an independent country in July 2011, South Sudan committed to releasing all children from its military's ranks and signed a new action plan with the UN in March 2012. During the year, UN personnel continued to observe children wearing SPLA uniforms, carrying weapons, and serving at SPLA checkpoints or as bodyguards for senior commanders. In 2011, the South Sudan Police Service (SSPS) forcibly recruited adults and children in Unity State; some of these individuals, including children, were later transferred to the SPLA. Armed militia groups recruited children, at times through force, throughout the year. The Sudanese People's Liberation Movement – North, a group that was formerly aligned with the SPLA and that reportedly still receives support from the SPLA/Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), forcibly recruited and reportedly used child soldiers in Sudan in fighting against the Sudan Armed Forces and aligned militias. Boys and girls were identified in the ranks of rebel groups, including those allied to Peter Gadet and the late Gatlauk Gai in Unity and Western Bahr el Ghazal states and David Yau Yau in Jonglei State; during the reporting period, some of these militias were integrated into the government's armed forces. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) continued to abduct South Sudanese children and harbor enslaved South Sudanese, Sudanese, Congolese, Central African, and Ugandan children in Western Equatoria and Western Bahr el-Ghazal states for use as cooks, porters, concubines, and combatants; some of these children are also taken back and forth across borders into Central African Republic or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The UN reported that the LRA abducted 49 individuals during 25 attacks in South Sudan in 2011.

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 continued to take some steps to eliminate the use of child soldiers in its armed forces, including through the signing of a new joint action plan with the UN. Despite these efforts, it did not demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to address other forms of trafficking; therefore South Sudan is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Public officials' awareness of human trafficking remained extremely low and the government lacked sufficient human and physical capital to adequately enforce its laws. During the year, the government indiscriminately arrested individuals in prostitution, including child sex trafficking victims, and sentenced them to prison.

Recommendations for South Sudan: Launch a public awareness campaign to educate government officials and the general public on the nature and dangers of human trafficking; enact the draft labor act to ensure adequate prohibitions of forced labor; develop formal procedures for law enforcement officials to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups and refer them for assistance; 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; allow unimpeded access to military barracks for monitoring missions to identify and remove any child soldiers; demobilize all remaining child soldiers from the ranks of governmental armed forces, as well as those of aligned militias, and provide them reintegration services; and train law enforcement and judicial officials to recognize trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, particularly individuals in prostitution, and refer them to NGOs to receive care.


The Government of South Sudan made no significant law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking during the reporting period. Its law enforcement presence in some regions of the country remained limited; some courts did not operate, and those that functioned often lacked the human and physical resources to investigate and prosecute criminals, including traffickers. South Sudanese law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. South Sudan's Penal Code Act of 2008 prohibits and prescribes punishments of up to seven years' imprisonment for abduction (Article 278) or 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 minor 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 Government of South Sudan did not investigate or prosecute any trafficking offenses using these or other articles during the reporting period. The omnibus labor act, which was drafted by the Ministry of Labor in 2009 and would provide further protections against forced and child labor, was not passed during the most recent legislative session.

The government continued to fail to hold members of its security forces accountable for the recruitment and use of children, and this pervasive impunity thwarted progress toward ending the use of child soldiers in the SPLA and SPSS. In November 2011, the government and the UN held a workshop to develop a new joint action plan on the elimination of child soldiers in the SPLA. During the workshop, plans were developed to create mechanisms for information sharing, collaboration, and training between SPLA judge advocate general officers and civilian judges on child protection issues. The final action plan signed by the SPLA and the UN in March 2012, includes these items, as well as provisions for criminal accountability for military officers who recruit and use child soldiers. The government did not provide specialized anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officers or judicial officials during the year, though an international donor provided such training to 24 immigration officials in January 2012.


The Government of South Sudan made negligible efforts to protect trafficking victims during the reporting period 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. It neither provided services to victims nor employed a process to transfer them to organizations to receive care. It 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. Government officials' failure to recognize cases of human trafficking led to victims being punished as law violators. In January 2012, the government arrested nine girls younger than 18 in the sex trade – all trafficking victims – and convicted them on charges of prostitution. The victims, sentenced to imprisonment ranging from terms of six months to two years, are currently in prison. During the year, police routinely arrested individuals in prostitution, without making efforts to determine whether they were trafficking victims. In 2011, two children were detained in military barracks in Unity State on charges of being associated with an armed rebel group without any inquiry into whether their association was coerced.

The SPLA continued to operate its child protection unit (CPU) in Juba to oversee implementation of its November 2009 one-year action plan to end its use of child soldiers, and to monitor compliance with child protection standards at major SPLA bases and removal of children from SPLA payrolls. It operated additional CPUs in Wau, Malakal, Renk, Mapel, Wunyiik, Duar, Panpandiar, and Mongiri. In collaboration with an international organization, the SPLA trained more than 1,000 officials on issues related to the protection of children associated with armed forces. During the reporting year, the head of the SPLA CPU made a request to the chief of general staff to issue orders to SPLA division commanders to release all children from their ranks and grant unfettered access to UN staff to inspect military enclaves; however, these orders were not issued during the reporting period. The government made efforts to remove children from militia groups before integrating them into the SPLA. In February 2012, the SPLA released 53 children from the armed group led by Major General Hassan Deng, following his acceptance of amnesty and reintegration into the SPLA.


The government made limited efforts during the reporting period aimed at the prevention of trafficking. It did not conduct any comprehensive anti-trafficking information or education campaigns, though a senior-ranking military official spoke on two radio broadcasts to warn families against sending their children to military camps for any reason. Trafficking awareness remained low among all 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. Throughout the majority of the year, the government continued to implement its 2009 joint action plan with the UN on eliminating the use of child soldiers, which had been extended into 2011. Senior government and military officials generally did not acknowledge recruitment of children by its security forces, but they publicly recognized that many armed militia groups, which continue to integrate into the SPLA through amnesty programs, use children. In March 2012, the government signed a new UN-SPLA action plan to release all children in the SPLA and to identify and release all children associated with armed militias prior to integrating them into the government's armed forces. Since independence in July 2011, the government took steps to establish the identity of local populations by issuing national identification cards and national certificates. The government made no discernible efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts. South Sudan is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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