As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in South Sudan, and traffickers exploit victims from South Sudan abroad. South Sudanese women and girls, particularly those from rural areas or who are internally displaced, are vulnerable to domestic servitude throughout the country. Male occupants of the household sexually abuse some of these women and girls or traffickers force them to engage in commercial sex acts. South Sudanese and foreign businesspeople subject South Sudanese girls to sex trafficking in restaurants, hotels, and brothels in urban centers—at times with the involvement of corrupt law enforcement officials. Children working in construction, market vending, shoe shining, car washing, rock breaking, brick making, delivery cart pulling, gold mining, and begging may be victims of forced labor. Families force girls into marriages, at times as compensation for inter-ethnic killings or as a way to survive severe food insecurity; traffickers may then subject some of these girls to sexual slavery or domestic servitude. South Sudanese and foreign business owners recruit men and women from neighboring countries—especially Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Somalia—as well as South Sudanese women and children, with fraudulent offers of employment opportunities in hotels, restaurants, and construction, and force them to work for little or no pay or subject them to sex trafficking. Some traffickers operate in organized networks within the country and across borders. East African migrants transiting through South Sudan to North Africa are vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking.
Violent conflict continued throughout the year, increasing the number of internally displaced persons from 1.9 to two million and creating approximately 2.28 million refugees as of February 2019. These groups, including orphaned children, are at increased risk of trafficking and other forms of exploitation within South Sudan and neighboring countries. Unaccompanied minors in camps for refugees or internally displaced persons are particularly vulnerable to abduction for sex or labor trafficking. Inter-ethnic abductions, as well as abductions by external criminal elements, continue between some communities in South Sudan, especially in legacy Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states. Traffickers subject abductees to forced labor or sex trafficking. An international organization estimated government and opposition-affiliated forces recruited more than 19,000 child soldiers since the start of the conflict in 2013, and armed groups continued to recruit and use children during the reporting period. Government forces use children to fight and perpetrate violence against other children and civilians; to serve as scouts, escorts, cooks, and cleaners; or to carry heavy loads while on the move. According to the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan signed in September 2018, the parties committed to refrain from the recruitment or use of child soldiers by armed forces or militias in contravention of international conventions. Both groups continued to retain, recruit, and use child soldiers during the reporting period, including on the front-line, and evidence persists of the widespread re-recruitment of children. Experts note more children fight on behalf of locally organized armed groups rather than formally organized groups with centralized command and control structures. International observers reported opposition groups recruiting and using child soldiers in the country’s legacy states, including Unity and Western Equatoria.