Legal matters pertaining to the family are currently governed by customary justice which often overlooks the needs of women and children. A woman’s right to choose her spouse, obtain a divorce, protect herself from domestic violence, custody of her children, and inheritance of marital property are just some areas restricted and dependent on the customs of traditional justice.
To address the vulnerabilities of women and children, in 2017, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare in partnership with South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network (SSWEN) put forth a draft for a formal family law for South Sudan. Since then, SSWEN has undertaken consultations across the country to collect the voices, experiences and priorities of the people of South Sudan.
The meeting provided a platform for SSWEN to present the findings of the national consultation process with the members of the Steering Committee. The discussions that followed identified gaps, best practices and next steps, including the need for further consultations with a wider geographical, ethnic and religious scope. The outcomes of the consultations, which were shared in individual reports, further highlighted the diversity of South Sudan in customs and practices.
Going forward, the Steering Committee will meet regularly to ensure the development of the family law moves ahead. UNDP technical specialists will provide legal expertise to support the national process. In addition, UNDP’s Access to Justice, Rule of Law and Human Rights Strengthening project is supporting the development of other legal frameworks, including: Penal Code Act, Evidence Act, Criminal Procedure Code Act, Legal Aid Bill, Interpretation of Laws Act, Police Act, Prison Act, Wildlife Act, National Security Act, Sudanese People Liberation Army Act, Petroleum Act, Banking Act and a draft Anti Gender-based Violence Bill.
“Women’s and children’s welfare are a matter of basic human rights and must therefore be protected. By developing a formal family law, through a participatory people centered process, women and children will have better access to justice and less at risk of being left behind,” said UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Christy Ahenkora.
Learn more about UNDP's work improving access to justice and promoting rule of law in South Sudan.