State capitals mark Human Rights Day

13 Dec 2011

State capitals mark Human Rights Day

10 December 2011 – Focusing on various issues, including abuse of authority and forced marriages, Human Rights Day was celebrated today in several states of South Sudan.

Representing Eastern Equatoria State Governor Brig. Gen. Louis Lobong during celebrations in Torit, Minister of Agriculture Jorom Surur acknowledged that much needed to be done to ensure that South Sudanese fully enjoyed their rights.

"Ensuring peace and security is among the key priorities of the state, which matters a lot in the respect of human rights for our people," Minister Surur said.

He added that a wide range of human rights violations existed in the state, including in government offices. "We should advocate human rights to stop violations, including abuse of authority, and should encourage individuals to know their rights and defend them," said the minister, drawing attention to this year's theme for the Day – "Become a human rights defender".

Over 700 people attended celebrations in Malakal, Upper Nile State, which were organized by the State Ministry of Gender, Social and Religious Affairs, UNMISS, UNICEF, UN High Commission for Refugees, Care International and American Refugee Committee.

Teresa John Wiyual, 15, from Good Shepherd Basic School read out a protest letter against early and forced marriages. "Girls are being forced into marriage at an early age. They are given least priority in terms of education and are not supported with basic needs," she said.

State Gender Advisor Ludia Thomas urged residents to stop the practice of forced and early marriages. "I call up on mothers and fathers to respect the will of their daughters. They should be allowed to complete their education before anything else."

In Yambio, Western Equatoria State, celebrations for Human Rights Day were held concurrently with Global Anti-corruption Day.

"We have already registered over 20 cases of corruption and these cases are under investigation," said Simon Ngbidigi, Chairperson of the state Anti-Corruption Commission. "Where it warrants prosecution, those found guilty will be prosecuted irrespective of who the perpetrators are."

Governor Joseph Bangasi Bakosoro emphasized that human rights included the right to education, equal rights for employment opportunities and the right to fair trial and access to justice. Chairperson of the Human Rights and Peace Committee of the State Legislative Assembly Alfred Rugafai urged the people of the state to recognize the work of human rights defenders.

"The issues around respect for human rights and dignity are not a fresh issue to most of us," he said. "Let us celebrate the work of human rights defenders."