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 these households sexually abuse some of these women and girls and may exploit some of them in commercial sex. Prominent South Sudanese individuals in state capitals and rural areas sometimes force women and girls into domestic servitude. South Sudanese and foreign businesspeople exploit South Sudanese girls in sex trafficking in restaurants, hotels, and brothels in urban centers—at times with the involvement of corrupt law enforcement officials. South Sudanese individuals coerce some children to work in construction, market vending, shoe shining, car washing, rock breaking, brick making, delivery cart pulling, gold mining, begging, and cattle herding. South Sudanese and foreign business owners recruit men and women from neighboring countries—especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Republic of the Congo, and Uganda—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 coerce them into commercial sex. An international organization reported Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Kenyan business owners recruit their compatriots, who enter South Sudan with valid visas and travel documents, and exploit them in forced labor or sex trafficking. Traffickers sexually exploit women most frequently in the country’s capital, Juba, and in Nimule, a city located on the border with Uganda. North Korean nationals working in South Sudan may be forced to work by the North Korean government.
Child, early, and forced marriage remains a nationwide problem, with families forcing some girls into marriages as compensation for inter- ethnic killings; husbands and their families may subsequently subject these girls to sex trafficking or domestic servitude. East African migrants transiting through South Sudan to North Africa remain vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking. Observers report traffickers exploit individuals along the country’s borders with Uganda and Kenya where economic activities are concentrated, as well as in artisanal mining operations along South Sudan’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Violent conflict continued throughout the year, resulting in approximately 1.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) as of December 2021 and 2.3 million South Sudanese refugees living in neighboring countries as of October 2021. These groups, including orphaned children, are at increased risk of trafficking and other forms of exploitation within South Sudan and neighboring countries due to sometimes limited access to formal justice and support networks. Unaccompanied children in camps for refugees or IDPs are particularly vulnerable to abduction by sex or labor traffickers. Inter-ethnic abductions and abductions by external criminal elements and armed groups remain common, especially in Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states; traffickers exploit some abductees in forced labor or sex trafficking.
An international organization reported the recruitment and use of 119 children from January to November 2021 by parties in conflict, compared to 62 in 2020. Experts assess there were currently between 7,000 and 19,000 child soldiers within South Sudan as of February 2021. An international organization also estimated government and opposition- affiliated forces have recruited more than 19,000 child soldiers since the start of the conflict in 2013, and armed groups continue to recruit and use children. Both the SSPDF and the SPLA-In Opposition signed or recommitted to action plans for child soldier demobilization and reintegration, but implementation remains incomplete. Government forces—including SSNPS—use children to fight and perpetrate violence against other children and civilians, serve as bodyguards, and staff checkpoints, as well as in other support roles. According to the Comprehensive Action Plan to Prevent All Grave Violations Against Children in South Sudan signed in 2020, the parties committed to refrain from the recruitment or use of child soldiers by armed forces or militias in contravention of international conventions. The government’s enlistment procedures required an age assessment, usually done through a dental exam, as many South Sudanese do not have access to birth registration documents. Governmental and non-governmental groups continued to retain, recruit, and use child soldiers during the reporting period. 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 report groups recruit and use child soldiers in Central and Western Equatoria, Unity, Western Bahr el Ghazal, and Jonglei. Observers report armed groups use boys for manual labor and odd jobs.