Garcia (2011). The Future of South Sudanese Women. Restructuring Customary Law in South Sudan
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With the succession of South Sudan swiftly approaching, the South Sudanese Government faces a plethora of important issues surrounding the development of the newly independent country that include peace and security, economic reform, the rebuilding of infrastructure, and a stable and efficient political system. However, one of the more important issues facing the young governmental body is that of women and the positions they hold in their households, communities and within the government itself. While the government of South Sudan recognizes the rights of women under the Interim Constitution of South Sudan, the government and people of South Sudan also recognize and uphold customary law that contradicts both South Sudan’s Bill of Rights and the international treaties pertaining to the rights of women.
The argument exists, however, that while the rights of women must be addressed and gender roles be reconstructed, the newly established government cannot adequately reform the laws of South Sudan given the current fragility of the region. Therefore, one must first identify the country of South Sudan as a progression of reform beginning with the government’s acknowledgement of women’s rights. One must then look to South Sudan’s future and create a framework that challenges customary law and implements societal reforms that allow for the
recognition of women’s rights at both a state and communal level. Through the progressive realization of the rights of women under Southern Sudanese civil and customary law, the country will establish itself as a democratic country that recognizes its citizens as equals and will better utilize its resources in strengthening its economy.
Customary law in South Sudan reflects the traditions and cultural practices that envelop much of the Sudanese society and the ethnic groups for whom it is comprised. It is therefore essential to the identity of the people and their country, for which they fought to secure. However, the argument exists that while customary law in South Sudan enforces values and customs that accentuate the centrality of kinship, customary law also encourages the marginalization of women by enforcing a paternalistic society for which the role of women is arguably subordinate. At a community level, laws are often upheld by chiefs, which comprise and support male dominance in South Sudan. Women are therefore forced to adhere to a justice system that is inaccessible and are therefore less likely to seek justice should their individual rights be violated.