The National Minister of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare, Aya Benjamin Warille, cautioned the chiefs against treating defilement and rape as minor cases.
Addressing a gathering meant to celebrate the New Year in Mundri West County, Western Equatoria State, over the weekend, Aya expressed disappointment at how the chiefs had treated the cases and given the suspects an edge.
She lamented the trend where young girls are being defiled, but the perpetrators often go unpunished because the chiefs handle such cases like minor ones.
“Reports from here concerning rape and defiling cases are being addressed by the local chiefs, but the verdict is not always fair; which is against the rights of the victim,” she said.
The minister emphasised that defilement is criminal and subject to legal punishment. She stated that any instance of defilement is equivalent to a rape, and anyone involved in such an act must answer to the law as such.
“Defilement is a crime, and such cases must be dealt with accordingly if we are to reduce the act within our community.” “Let the chiefs [understand] me now if they are not aware,” she added.
“Imagine that someone’s child was defiled, and you made the suspect go unpunished or pay money; what do you think you have done? You did nothing, so let us not leave the room for crimes; those people need to face a real law.”
She also advised parents and guardians to report such incidents to authorities so that the law can take its course, adding that defending and hiding such cases would encourage such behaviour.
In November last year, about eight underage school children reportedly got impregnated at the Seventh Day Adventist Primary School in Mundri West County.
Later, police in Mundri West County arrested the school’s bursar for reportedly impregnating one of the learners.
A relative of the minor revealed that the suspect would be tried in accordance with the South Sudanese Constitution because the case had been filed at the Mundri West County Court.
The Mundri West County court had forwarded the matter to the high court, according to the Mundri authorities’ report, which was eventually made public. A team was to be dispatched from Juba to handle the case.